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Grantee Research Project Results

Production of Natural Plastics in Wastewater Treatment

EPA Grant Number: SU833562
Title: Production of Natural Plastics in Wastewater Treatment
Investigators: Matsumura, Kristen , Cheng, Mary , Liu, Hsin-Ying , Loge, Frank , Pan, Jimmy
Current Investigators: Loge, Frank , Bissell, John , Cheng, Mary , Liu, Hsin-Ying , Matsumura, Kristen , Pan, Jimmy , Srinivasaragavan, Anamica
Institution: University of California - Davis
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Project Period: September 30, 2007 through May 30, 2008
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2007)
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Built Environment



Traditional methods of plastic production use petroleum-based products that are nonrenewable. These forms of plastic materials have negative impacts on the environment. They consume landfill space and require millions of years to decay. We propose a new method to produce plastics biologically from wastewater. We chose wastewater because it is cheap, abundant, and renewable. Recent research reveals that certain bacteria used in biological treatment processes stores plastic as polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) inside their cell walls. Producing plastic from wastewater is shown to be cheaper, more energy efficient, and less polluting than producing plastic from petrochemicals. Ultimately, plastic produced from wastewater will reduce our dependence on oil and will be biodegradable.


In phase I of this study, we propose to construct bench-scale batch reactors to find the suitable conditions that will maximize the production of PHA in wastewater. In phase II, we will design, construct, and operate a large-scale pilot system at Los Angeles County Sanitary Districts (LACSDs). We established a partnership with the LACSDs to test and implement our design.

Expected Results:

Our project will focus on green engineering principals that affect people, prosperity, and the planet. Successful integration of bioplastics will give people the freedom to choose products based on their own principles. Creative design implementation will further increase the prosperity of a community. The use of bio-plastics will decrease environmental stresses on the planet.

Supplemental Keywords:

Biodegradable plastics; Wastewater; Up-cycling; Organic waste,

Relevant Websites:

Phase 2 Abstract
Micromidas Web Site Exit
Cleantech Open Announces Finalists in California Regional Competition Exit

Progress and Final Reports:
Final Report

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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