Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are versatile biodegradable polymers produced by bacteria and are suitable for many downstream applications. They can be produced inexpensively from mixed microbial cultures under feast and famine conditions in the presence of biobased volatile fatty acids (VFAs). Here, we investigated the effect of changing the sludge retention time (SRT) and the addition of fermented cellulosic primary sludge (CPS) as a carbon source on the selection of PHA-storing biomass when applying the feast and famine strategy under aerobic and anoxic conditions, respectively. Increasing the SRT from 5 to 7-10 days enhanced PHA yields under feast conditions from 0.18 gCODPHA/gCODVFA (period 1) to 0.40 gCODPHA/gCODVFA (period 2). The use of fermented CPS as a carbon source (period 3) increased PHA yields to 0.62 gCODPHA/gCODVFA despite the presence of biodegradable non-VFA fractions. Microbial characterization by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and fluorescence in situ hybridization revealed high microbial speciation during the three experimental periods. In period 3, the dominant genera were Thauera, Paracoccus, and Azoarcus, which accounted for μ95% of the total microbial biomass.
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