Identification and fine-tuning of a process that allows the effective conversion of organic carbon from urban waste into valuable bio-based products is the main goal of “REsources from URban BIowaSte”- RES URBIS (GA 7303499) project in the European Horizon2020 program.
In this frame, the Mixed Microbial Culture (MMC) process for polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) production has not been exploited at full scale yet and the process is presently under investigation only at pilot scale.
The successful development and the industrial implementation of a safe biochemical conversion process is essential for meeting sustainable development goals. Although the health and safety risks posed by bioprocesses for the valorisation of biomass are usually expected to be lower than the traditional chemical and petrochemical processes, there is still a lack of information about these aspects of biorefinery plants, especially for novel bioprocesses under development.
Taking steps to meet this challenge, the work presents early results of professional chemical risk assessment in application to the MMC-PHA production process at pilot plant scale. The assessment has been performed applying a guideline drawn up by Italian National System for Environmental Protection for the protection of operators from risks to their safety and health arising, or likely to arise, from the effects of chemical agents that are present at the workplace or as a result of any work activity involving chemical agents. Meeting the requirements of Community legislation and the updates introduced by EC Regulation 1907/2006 (REACH, 2006) and EC Regulation 1272/2008 (CLP, 2008), the guideline provides a methodology for chemical risk assessment distinguishing between risks for safety, related to reactivity and chemical-physical properties of chemicals, and risks for health, mainly ascribable to toxicological properties of chemical agents.
Starting from the analysis of the Process Flow Diagram of a pilot scale plant for PHA production, a lot of information (hazardous properties of chemical agents, circumstances of work involving such agents, including their amount, level, type and duration of exposure, relevant material safety data sheets, occupational exposure limit values, effect of preventive measures taken or to be taken) has been collected in order to apply the guideline criteria and the joined IT tool. The paper presents the results of the assessment attempt.