The increase of solid wastes is becoming a global problem. Different methods such as burial, incineration and recycling are used to dispose solid wastes. Improper management of solid wastes contaminates air, soil and water. In addition, disposal of solid wastes in landfills pollute the ground water and cause the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. Municipal solid waste contains high amounts of cellulose, which is an ideal organic waste for the growth of most of microorganisms. Most of the carbon dioxide and methane are produced from biodegradable cellulosic wastes such as wood, leaves, other agricultural residues and waste papers. Hence the use of cellulosic waste materials as a substrate for bacterial fermentation would reduce the problem of waste management to a reasonable extent.
Municipal solid waste management is a challenging problem for the Sultanate of Oman. With a population of above 3 million, the country is generating more than 1.6 million tons of solid waste per year. In Muscat 366,000 tonnes of garbage are collected annually and dumped in landfills. Solid waste in Oman consists mainly of renewable sources such as wood, paper, food materials, plastics, metals and glass. The waste paper which accounts more than 35% of the total lignocellulosic waste of the municipal solid waste could be a potential feedstock for value added products due to its rich cellulose content.
With the help of the grant received from The Research Council, Dr. Sivakumar Nallusamy, Assistant Professor at the Department of Biology, Sultan Qaboos University, and his team successfully converted the waste paper into commercially valuable products. A team consisting of one Post Doc and three PhD students are working in this project. They have collected waste office paper, news paper and cardboard paper and subjected them to different pretreatment methods. The pretreated waste paper were converted into fermentable sugars by enzymatic hydrolysis. The obtained fermentable sugars were successfully converted into bioplastic, bioethanol and biodiesel using appropriate microorganisms.
The team has published their findings in internationally reputed journals. For this pioneer study on the conversion of waste paper into value added products, Dr. Sivakumar Nallusamy strengthened the bioprocess laboratory by installing a 100L bioreactor that could be used to produce the above products at a pilot scale level. Through this project, many undergraduate students were trained in the bioprocessing and the biorefinery approach which is very much needed at the present situation. Dr. Sivakumar believes that these type of studies would support to develop a biobased economy. Utilization of organic wastes to produce commercially valuable products is one the important areas to be focused in Oman. Such studies will solve the problem of environmental pollution and also open the doors to start fermentation industries.
The Principal investigator of the project is Dr. Sivakumar Nallusamy and the Co Principal investigator is Prof. Saif Al Bahry. Dr. Ashish Gujarathi is the Co investigator and Dr. Annamalai Neelamegam is the Post Doctoral fellow. Ahlam Al AzKawi, Huda Sultan Al Battashi and Anu S Nair are the PhD students working on the conversion of waste paper into ethanol, bioplastic and biodiesel respectively.