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The meat and dairy industry across Europe is dependent on the production of grass. However, faced with competing pressures to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, a potential future reduction of meat and dairy consumption in western diets, and pressure to minimize food production costs, grass could be used to produce alternative products. The biological production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) by using grass as the primary carbon source in a novel mixed culture process has been studied. A total of 30,000 t of fresh grass would yield approximately 403.65 t of dried biopolymer granules. On the basis of this early stage, non-optimized process, the cumulative energy demand (CED) of PHA produced from waste grass and cultivated grass was found to be 248.4 MJ/kg and 271.8 MJ/kg, respectively, which is the same order of magnitude as fossil-carbon-based polymers. Improvements in volatile fatty acid yields, reduction in chemical and water inputs, and using residues to make other products will reduce the CED. Given the future requirement to produce polymers with little or no fossil-carbon feedstock, an optimized version of the process could provide a viable future production option that also contributes to the long-term sustainability of agricultural communities.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberJIEC13071
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2020

    Research areas

  • Grass, Biorefining, Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), Systems Analysis, Industrial Ecology

ID: 4231497