Under the direction of Alexander Zwirzitz, scientists from the Bio- and Environmental Technology programme at the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria (Wels, Austria) are conducting research together with the Vienna University of Technology (Vienna, Austria) and the Třeboň Algae Centre (Třeboň, Czech Republic) into the fact that blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) grow on industrial waste, absorb CO2 in the process and produce polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), which serves as a raw material for biodegradable plastics. With this project, the research team took second place in the Sustainability Award 2022 in the field of action “Research”, which was presented by Federal Minister Leonore Gewessler and Federal Minister Martin Polaschek in Vienna.
The award was given to projects that contribute to ecological, economic, social, cultural, and political aspects of sustainability and contribute to achieving the sustainability goals of the 2030 Agenda.
The winning projects were selected by a high-calibre jury made up of respected representatives of the education and sustainability sectors. A total of 83 projects from 34 different universities and colleges from all over Austria were submitted for the Sustainability Award.
Cyanobacteria grow on dairy wastewater
Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) can absorb CO2 and use it as a source of nutrients. They also naturally produce polyhydroxybutyrates (PHB), from which biodegradable plastics can be made in further steps.
“We are genetically modifying cyanobacteria at the FH OÖ Campus Wels so that they grow on dairy wastewater and produce more PHB. In this way, a sustainable plastic is to be produced from an industrial waste stream”, explains Zwirzitz and continues: “The cultivation on dairy wastewater, further processing procedures and the transfer of the genetically optimised cyanobacteria to industrial size are carried out by our project partners at the TU Vienna and the Algae Centre in Třeboň (CZ)”.