AHP waste, which is currently considered a non-recyclable fraction, represents between 2-4% of the total Municipal Solid Waste. What if this waste could be converted into other products, avoiding incineration and reducing greenhouse gases emissions?

Fater in the last years has developed and patented an innovative recycling solution for post-consumer AHP waste, already demonstrated at 1,500 t/year in Lovadina di Spresiano (TV – Italy) in cooperation with the waste operator Contarina

Innovative Project scope

The EMBRACED project intends to demonstrate in a relevant industrial environment a circular model of integrated biorefinery based on the valorisation of the cellulosic fraction of post-consumer Absorbent Hygiene Products (AHP) waste towards the production of biobased building blocks, polymers, and fertilizers.

The approach

- Cascading approach, where all fractions from the process will be valorized to obtain marketable end-products fully competitive in terms of cost, quality and sustainability.
- 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.

Technical objectives


• Recovery of 3 high purify fractions: cellulose, plastic fraction and Super Absorbent Polymer fraction (SAP).
• Enhaced quality of cellulose by reducing the SAP content from 50% to 5%.

Conversion of AHP waste cellulose into building blocks and polymers:

• Demonstration of an innovative pretreatment technology for the obtaining of fermentable sugars from AHP waste cellulose
• Demonstration of the conversion of fermentable sugars from AHP waste cellulose through a first of its kind biotech process into biobased building blocks of industrial interest
• Demonstration of the conversion of fermentable sugars from AHP waste cellulose into biodegradable Polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB)
• Demonstration of biobased and biodegradable polyesters formulation suitable for packaging applications

Validation into final products:

• recycled plastic fraction into plastic bins and caps
• deactivated cells from PHB fermentation into organic fertilizers
• PHB into medical devices
• biobased polysters into films for non-food packaging applications
• recycled SAP into innovative absorbent underpads

Resource efficiency objectives

Reduction of the primary energy consumption of AHP treatment system:

• The implementation of innovative coating treatment of the internal surface of the autoclave in the demo plant will enable to require the same energy demand per cycle that Contarina’s pilot plant does
• Further decrease of 10% in energy consumption will be achieved through additional efficiency measures (e.g. waste energy recovery)

Recovery of high value molecules & production of bio-energy:

• Design of a system for recovery of phosphate, ammonium, potassium and urea contained in wastewater from AHP pretreatment process
• Valorisation of by-products from fermentation into bio-energy production

Environmental objectives

Life cycle thinking:

• LCA and LCC of the whole process will be performed to identify the critical aspects along the value chain to identify adequate strategies for improve the sustainability of the biorefinery

Environmental and economic impact:

• The target reduction of GHG emission is 0.43 tons CO2 eq/ton AHP waste against incineration

Production of biobased PHB from AHP waste cellulose:

• Reduction of CO2 emission by up to 250 kg CO2 eq/ton PHB with respect to PHB produced from sugar feedstock
• Dramatic reduction of water requirement and land use compared to the production of PHB from 1st gen sugars

Standardization of the developed processes:

• Valorisation of by-products from fermentation into bio-energy production

Socio-economic objectives

Production cost:

• Reduction of PHB production cost up to 50%

Local community involvement:

• Activation of models of direct participation of the local community into the demonstration of the new urban waste-based biorefinery

Overcoming legislative barriers:

• Definition of guidelines to overcome legislative barriers at EU level towards the utilization of AHP waste fractions as secondary raw materials

Replication of the biorefinery model:

• Development of a robust replication plan through the establishment of a group of at least 30 external stakeholders covering a minimum of 10 EU countries (beyond Italy and the Netherlands) to define local scenario for the replication of the biorefinery model

Business cases, models and plans:

• Development of profitable business cases, business models and business plans tuning the biorefinery model to different local conditions across EU


Working Packages

This project has received funding from the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 745746