From trash to treasure: Sourcing high-value, sustainable cellulosic materials from living bioreactor waste streams

Thomas Harrison, Vijay Kumar Gupta, Parvez Alam, Adam W Perriman, Fabrizio Scarpa, Vijay Kumar Thakur*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The appreciation of how conventional and fossil-based materials could be harmful to our planet is growing, especially when considering single-use and non-biodegradable plastics manufactured from fossil fuels. Accordingly, tackling climate change and plastic waste pollution entails a more responsible approach to sourcing raw materials and the adoption of less destructive end-of-life pathways. Livestock animals, in particular ruminants, process plant matter using a suite of mechanical, chemical and biological mechanisms through the act of digestion. The manure from these “living bioreactors” is ubiquitous and offers a largely untapped source of lignocellulosic biomass for the development of bio-based and biodegradable materials. In this review, we assess recent studies made into manure-based cellulose materials in terms of their material characteristics and implications for sustainability. Despite the surprisingly diverse body of research, it is apparent that progress towards the commercialisation of manure-derived cellulose materials is hindered by a lack of truly sustainable options and robust data to assess the performance against conventional materials alternatives. Nanocellulose, a natural biopolymer, has been successfully produced by living bioreactors and is presented as a candidate for future developments. Life cycle assessments from non-wood sources are however minimal, but there are some initial indications that manure-derived nanocellulose would offer environmental benefits over traditional wood-derived sources.
Original languageEnglish
Article number123511
JournalInternational Journal of Biological Macromolecules
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Biorefining and Advanced Materials Research Centre, SRUC . No specific funding was allocated for this work. FS also acknowledges the partial support from ERC -2020-AdG-NEUROMETA (No. 101020715 ) and Office of Naval Research Global Grant # 13102794.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023


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