New project to develop biofuels from paper waste

27th March 2015

The Biorefinery Centre at the Institute of Food Research is to launch a new project, to investigate the feasibility of turning waste paper into biofuels.

The project is one of 24 announced by the Industrial Biotechnology Catalyst. Funded by Innovate UK, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the new project will explore whether paper “crumble” could be used to make sugars, that could then be fermented to make biofuels, or other valuable chemicals. Crumble is a by-product from paper recycling. However, it contains plant-derived cellulosic material, which the Biorefinery Centre have had a long standing interest in, as this material represents potential renewable biomass for biorefining.

A previous study, published in 2013, established the proof of principle that paper could be converted to biofuels, at yields matching that of conventional biofuels, overcoming significant technical challenges along the way.

This new project will study the feasibility of the process on the larger scale. Working with industrial partners  Palm Paper LtdVireol Bio-Industries plc, and Lenzing, IFR’s researchers will study the by-product from industrial paper-recycling, and how well this works as a source of fermentable sugars. These sugars will then be fermented into a range of different chemicals, including bioethanol, by yeasts, and the team will work closely with the National Collection of Yeast Cultures at IFR to optimise the biological process.