Making plastics from garbage: A novel process for poly-L-lactate production from municipal food waste

Kenji Sakai, Masayuki Taniguchi, Shigenobu Miura, Hitomi Ohara, Toru Matsumoto, Yoshihito Shirai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)


We propose a novel recycling system for municipal food waste that combines fermentation and chemical processes to produce high-quality poly-L-lactate (PLLA) biodegradable plastics. The process consists of removal of endogenous D,L-lactic acid from minced food waste by a propionibacterium, L-lactic acid fermentation under semisolid conditions, L-lactic acid purification via butyl esterification, and L-lactic acid polymerization via LL-lactide. The total design of the process enables a high yield of PLLA with high optical activity (i.e., a high proportion of optical isomers) and novel recycling of all materials produced at each step, with energy savings and minimal emissions. Approximately 50% of the total carbon was removed, mostly as L-lactic acid, and 100 kg of collected food waste yielded 7.0 kg PLLA (about 34% of the total carbon). The physical properties of the PLLA yielded in this manner were comparable to those of PLLA generated from commercially available L-lactic acid. Evaluation of the process is also discussed from the viewpoints of material and energy balances and environmental impact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-74
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2003
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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