Kitchen waste accounts for 59.3% of domestic waste. Because it contains a large amount of organic matter and has a large processing space, the treatment of kitchen waste has attracted widespread attention, and the scale of the industry has grown rapidly. It is estimated that China’s scale will reach 470 billion in 2023.
At present, China’s kitchen waste treatment mainly relies on landfill and incineration, and a few rely on anaerobic digestion, aerobic composting, and feed. In the context of carbon neutrality and circular economy, these methods still have great deficiencies in terms of carbon emissions and utilization. Under the principle of producer pays, the traditional processing method has high cost and low product value, which cannot be fundamentally driven.
So, can kitchen waste be upgraded to higher value products? Biodegradable plastics may be a better solution.
At present, Full Cycle in the United States uses natural bacteria to convert organic waste such as food waste into PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate); Genecis in Canada develops microorganisms and fermentation processes to produce PHA from food waste, and is already advancing its first Production of one product PHBV (copolymer of 3-hydroxybutyrate and 3-hydroxyvalerate, a class of PHA).
In China, Junjun Technology Suzhou Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as Junjun Technology) is currently the only company dedicated to using engineered Escherichia coli to convert kitchen waste into biodegradable plastics. Junjun Technology was incorporated in March 2022, specializing in providing solutions for biodegradable waste.
”Driven by the development of biotechnology, more and more chemical manufacturing will be covered by biological manufacturing, which also means that the problem of ‘competing with others for food’ in terms of raw materials will become increasingly serious. Domestic corn reserves have plummeted The ethanol gasoline promotion plan was stopped, so we hope to use more sustainable raw materials for bio-manufacturing to empower low-carbon environmental protection industries. The production system from kitchen waste to degradable plastics created by Junjun Technology is undoubtedly more suitable for my country National conditions.” Chen Fan, the founder of Junjun Technology, said.
Dr. Chen Fan studied at the Department of Biochemistry of the Technical University of Munich, Germany, under the supervision of Professor Eisenleich and Nobel Prize winner Professor Huber. During his Ph.D. study, Chen Fan devoted himself to the research and application of metabolomics of bacteria and human cells and the biosynthesis pathway of plant active metabolites. He was a visiting scholar at the Robert Koch Institut under the German Ministry of Health. He has presided over several cooperative projects between the German Research Foundation and the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the French National Center for Scientific Research and the Yucatan State Research Center in Mexico. He once co-founded M-Scout GmbH, a third-party diagnostic company based on metabolomics, in Germany, and was responsible for corporate R&D and business development.
24-hour complete treatment plan from kitchen waste to PHB
According to Chen Fan, Junjun Technology has created a complete set of treatment solutions within 24 hours from kitchen waste to target high value-added products. The scheme conducts high-throughput analysis of kitchen waste, deploys appropriate mixed enzymes based on the analysis results, adjusts the ratio of carbon and nitrogen sources, phosphate concentration, pH value, etc. after decomposing the waste, and customizes the medium suitable for the growth of different engineering bacteria . The main products of the current program are PHB (polyhydroxybutyrate, a class of PHA) and single-cell proteins.
”Overall, we will shorten the time for degrading food waste into culture medium to 6 hours, control the fermentation process to 12 hours, and control the terminal treatment, that is, the harvested product, to 6 hours, and realize a 24-hour solution as a whole. And this also requires Junjun Technology to be accurate in every step.”
He said specifically, first of all, Junjun Technology conducts modeling based on the slurry composition and spectrum of kitchen waste, so that it can detect the composition of kitchen waste in real time points to calculate the optimal enzyme formula. In the future, if the composition of waste changes, such as expanding from kitchen waste to biodegradable waste such as agricultural waste and flower waste, the proportion of enzymes added or the proportion of carbon and nitrogen sources added later can also be corrected in time.
Secondly, the exclusive patented gene-edited bacteria have extremely high output and greatly improved efficiency. Bacteria Technology transfers the PHB metabolic pathway of a Gram-negative bacterium into E. coli and improves it so that it can complete the production of the target compound in a shorter time.
In addition, the most critical is the strain library. In addition to the strain library platform built internally, Junjun Technology also has in-depth cooperation with the Technical University of Munich. “In the future, I will do projects similar to the Joint Research Center, and have in-depth cooperation with my supervisor Professor Eisenrech and Nobel Prize winner Professor Huber on bacteria and enzyme formulations.” In terms of the team, the person in charge of fermentation
technology Under the tutelage of Dean Zhuang Yingping of the School of Bioengineering of East China University of Science and Technology, she is good at multi-omics integration analysis, metabolic engineering transformation, and bio-fermentation technology; the person in charge of separation technology is a joint Ph.D. trained by East China University of Science and Technology and Technical University of Munich, good at catalyst preparation and reaction technology Condition optimization and amplification, distillation and separation technology development and optimization and other related work; the person in charge of automation is a Ph.D. in information science and technology from the University of Paris XI, and the industrial robots and intelligent manufacturing equipment he participated in the research and development have been installed in Nanjing, Wuxi, Taizhou and other places Daily business applications.
In addition, Bacteria Technology invited Professor Li Xinyao from Shanghai University to serve as the technical support for the company’s separation system; it cooperated with Professor Wu Shijia from Jiangnan University to establish the Bacteria Technology-Jiangnan University Joint Research Center, which is responsible for the safety assessment of synthetic biological products.
The main products are PHB and single cell protein
However, Chen Fan also admitted that the current system is still step-by-step, that is, several processes add up to a total of 24 hours, and the effect of integration has not yet been achieved.
”In the future, we will make the whole system more smooth, and at the same time carry out more targeted transformation for the strains. Specifically, after turning the garbage into a culture medium, we need to adjust its carbon and nitrogen source ratio to adapt to a certain strain. For engineering bacteria, the method will be changed later to optimize the product synthesis path of engineered bacteria to maximize the production potential. Products will also be expanded to more high value-added products such as prebiotics, farnesene, γ-decalactone and hyaluronic acid .”He said.