Sustainable processes must increasingly embrace renewable, often biobased, feedstock, which creates new challenges for downstream-processing.
One such challenge is the recovery and purification of products derived from biotechnological and/or hybrid biotechnological-chemical processing, like fermentation broths. Another is the targeted recycling of valuable components in waste streams and the appropriate treatment, minimisation and disposal of any residual waste generated.
The chemical sector is working to improve processes that generate less waste and enhance sustainability through process intensification and advanced process control. In parallel we need new processes to recover useful or valuable products and energy from gaseous, liquid and solid waste streams and remove harmful contaminants.
New processes must also be developed to minimise the energy required to generate new raw materials from complex waste materials. In particular, the industry is focused on improving water treatment technologies, overall water efficiency and associated energy efficiencies. Water is used in a range of processing functions and the industry aims for near zero discharge using closed loop systems to reuse water repeatedly.
Concepts such as industrial symbiosis, where waste and side streams are used in a fully integrated model for complete resource management in an industrial park, site or region, are being investigated. This will require effective downstream processing to ensure appropriate quality for waste as feedstock.