• 1 Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia
PMID: 10595441


Rubber latex effluent is a polluting source that has a high biochemical oxygen demand (BOD). It is estimated that about 100 million liters of effluent are discharged daily from rubber processing factories. Utilization of this effluent such as the use of a coupled system not only can reduce the cost of treatment but also yield a fermentation feedstock for the production of bioplastic. This study initially was carried out to increase the production of organic acids by anaerobic treatment of rubber latex effluent. It was found that through anaerobic treatment the concentration of organic acids did not increase. Consequently, separation of organic acids from rubber latex effluent by anion exchange resin was examined as a preliminary study of recovering acetic and propionic acids. However, the suspended solids (SS) content in the raw effluent was rather high which partially blocked the ion-exchange columns. Lime was used to remove the SS in the rubber latex effluent. After the lime precipitation process, organic acids were found to adsorb strongly onto the anion exchange resin. Less adsorption of organic acids onto the resin was observed before the lime precipitation. This was probably due to more sites being occupied by colloidal particles on the resin thus inhibiting the adsorption of organic acids. The initial concentration of organic acids in the raw effluent was 3.9 g/L. After ion exchange, the concentration of the organic acids increased to 27 g/L, which could be utilized for production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA). For PHA accumulation stage, concentrated rubber latex effluent obtained from ion exchange resins and synthetic acetic acid were used as the carbon source. Quantitative analyses from fed batch culture via HPLC showed that the accumulation of PHA in Alcaligenes eutrophus was maximum with a concentration of 1.182 g/L when cultivated on synthetic acetic acid, corresponding to a yield of 87% based on its cell dry weight. The dry cell weight increased from 0.71 to 1.67 g/L. On the other hand, using concentrated rubber latex effluent containing acetic and propionic acids resulted in reduced PHA content by dry weight (14%) but the dry cell weight increased from 0.49 to 1.30 g/L. The results clearly indicated that the cells grow well in rubber latex effluent but no PHA was accumulated. This could be due to the high concentration of propionic acid in culture broth or other factors such as heavy metals. Thus further work is required before rubber latex effluent can be utilized as a substrate for PHA production industrially.

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