A sizeable category that contributes to the organic fraction of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is represented by Absorbent Hygiene Products (AHPs) waste, which are currently considered as non-recyclable fraction of MSW and finds its way to landfills or incineration, leading to important environmental concerns. Indeed, each year 900,000 tons of AHP waste are incinerated or landfilled in Italy, 8,500,000 tons in Europe and over 30,000,000 tons in the world. AHP are mainly composed of a mix of natural fibres (cellulose) and polymers (PP/PE and superabsorbent polymer), valuable materials that currently don’t find a proper valorization. Within EMBRACED project, a first of its kind, integrated biorefinery will be established in order to valorize in a relevant environment scenario the three different fractions obtained from AHP waste towards the production of bioproducts of commercial interest.
This innovative biorefinery model will involve all the main actors of the whole value chain, from AHP consumers and local population to waste management and logistic companies, bioprocesses developers or final products developers. In a view of circular economy, all the fractions obtained from processed AHP waste will be reused through valorization into final products, while the organic fraction of AHP (i.e. cellulose) will be converted and valorized in two parallel value chains, which will lead to the production of biobased building blocks, polymers and fertilizers.
The EMBRACED project intends to demonstrate in a relevant industrial environment a replicable, circular, economically viable and environmentally sustainable model of integrated biorefinery based on the valorisation of the cellulosic fraction of Post-Consumer Absorbent Hygiene Products Waste (in short AHP) towards the production of biobased building blocks, polymers, and fertilizers.
The biorefinery model will be implemented following a cascading approach, where all fractions from the process will be valorized to obtain marketable end-products fully competitive with the respective fossil-based counterparts or other benchmark biomass-based products, in terms of cost, quality and sustainability. Moreover, the biorefinery model will be set-up following a circular economy approach, closing the cycle of raw materials and minimizing the use of primary resources, through the establishment of virtuous models of cooperation among all the involved stakeholders.
CIRCE will be responsible of studying the energy efficiency of the refinery in order to fulfil the principles of circular economy and environmental sustainability. Specifically, CIRCE will apply an integrated methodology based on pinch analysis together with Aspen Plus simulation models so as to identify measures to decrease primary energy consumption
In addition CIRCE will elaborate a specific methodology that will enable the identification of measures to promote the acceptance of the biobased products to consumers, including green public procurement. This analysis includes the design, conduct, test, and data treatment of surveys (on-line and in-person) with a broad sample and different types of consumers.