Four winning proposals on “Creating Wealth from Waste” received awards on December 9, 2019 at the IC-IMPACTS Science and Technology Innovation Dialogue in New Delhi, India. This Call for Proposals was launched jointly by IC-IMPACTS (A Network of Centres of Excellence) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global pressures of population growth, urbanization, water shortages, and climate change impacts are increasing the agricultural demands to treat waste as a steady source of water and nutrients. In addition, freshwater, nutrients, energy, and chemical compounds recovered from wastewater and solid waste have found applications in areas such as irrigation, horticulture, forestry, and industrial water supply. Collaborations between academia, government, and industry to recover water, nutrients, energy, and valuable chemicals from waste will yield innovative technologies that can be scaled up to global markets for creating wealth from waste.

This joint IC-IMPACTS and DBT Call for Proposals was launched in February 2019, and called for biotechnology-driven research-based solutions that can be implemented in cities such as Delhi, Kanpur, and Varanasi, or in locations with similar geographies. The following successful proposals have the potential to be developed as a commercially viable option to extract wealth from wastewater or solid waste and be applicable to rejuvenating polluted bodies of water such as the River Ganga in India.

Below are the winning proposals along with a brief description:

  • Biopolymer-based Electrospun Membranes for Recovery of Heavy Metals from Industrial Wastewater: Dr. Xianshe Feng (University of Waterloo) & Dr. Swanpali Hazarika (CSIR-North EastInstitute of Science & Technology).
    Heavy metals are extremely hazardous when absorbed by living organisms through aquatic environments. It is essential to treat wastewater containing metals before releasing it into the environment, where it can cause serious health disorders for the human body. This project proposes to use ‘electrospinning’ for wastewater treatment, a simple and versatile nanofiber production technique. This process would reduce the cost of the process dramatically for waste water treatment for heavy metal recovery.
  • Optimum Biocell for Tropical Climates: Dr. Patrick Hettiaratchi (University of Calgary) & Dr. Sunil Kumar (CSIR – National Environmental Engineering Research Institute).
    The Optimal Biocell is a novel technology with enhanced energy recovery using cost-effective processes, greenhouse gas (GHG) emission control, groundwater contamination control, and resource and space recovery as direct and indirect benefits. This project aims to build an optimum biocell in Thane using a mixture of municipal solid waste and sewage sludge as feedstock, to generate renewable fuels like CNG.
  • Biovalorization of Lignin: Dr. Vikramaditya G. Yadav (University of British Columbia) & Dr. Syed S. Yazdani (International Centre for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology).
    Biorefining is the process of converting biomass to energy and other beneficial bioproducts. Very few processes utilizing lignin have been developed, which is a lost opportunity for the green economy as lignin is abundant. This project proposes to develop a family of biocatalytic processes that convert lignin to pharmaceutical building blocks, flavouring agents and drug delivery platforms. Biocatalytic processes are greener, emit lesser carbon dioxide and are more energy-efficient than other alternatives.
  • Development and scale-up of technology for microbial extraction of xylose from agro-waste materials and subsequent conversion into xylitol. Subtitle: Conversion of hydrolysed lignocellulosic residues into biopolymers for applications in composites: Dr. Tatjana Stevanovic (Université Laval) & Dr. Baljinder Kuar (Punjabi University).
    This highly innovative project will establish a microbial biotransformation, consisting of xylose extraction by acid hydrolysis of agro-waste and its conversion into xylitol, using recombinant microbial strain to develop high-value food and pharmaceutical building blocks from lignin waste, which is currently burned in most cases.

“Scientific collaboration between Canada and India is key to solving problems and implementing solutions in each nation, both of which share a concern for the environment and an aspiration to minimize the impact of ever-growing industrial activities. IC-IMPACTS is delighted to partner with India’s Department of Biotechnology to support these promising bilateral research projects, and apply the solutions thus generated to Prime Minister Modi’s missions including Ganga Rejuvenation.  The innovative part of this bilateral effort is that while creating solutions towards waste management, the developed technologies will also generate wealth for our communities.”

– Dr. Nemy Banthia, CEO & Scientific Director, IC-IMPACTS

“It is very important that available waste carbon is used innovatively and effectively to create wealth out of it.  Department of Biotechnology has been supporting several novel and sustainable technologies to generate Energy or value added products from biodegradable waste.   I congratulate four winning teams from both India and Canada.  The innovative technologies generated as the  outcome of these joint projects would significantly contribute towards India’s Swachh Bharat and Ganga Rejuvenation Missions and for cleaner environment of both countries”

– Dr. Renu Swarup, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology