Membrane-Coupled Fungi Reactor - An innovative approach to biotreatment of hazardous dye wastewater

Membrane-Coupled Fungi Reactor - An innovative approach to biotreatment of hazardous dye wastewater

ChinaOulu, Finland
Project Stage:
< $1,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Dye waste water from textile industry is difficult to treat and toxic when discharged to river. The contaminated water is not only a threat to our ecosystem but also to people’s daily life. Our vision is to create an environmental friendly textile industry and make clean drinking water accessible.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Water pollution causes illness and deaths, accounting for 50 million deaths per year worldwide, especially in Africa and Asia. Textile industry is one of the biggest water polluters. About 280,000 tons/year of textile dyes are discharged to river without proper treatment worldwide. Textile industrial wastewater discharge (dyes decreases photosynthesis) has not only affected the quality of water, it has also polluted food products.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Why dye is hard to remove from the water? Aromatic dyes with poor bio-degradability are resistant to acids, bases, light and oxygen. Conventional wastewater treatment plants using activated sludge treatment which is unable to treat dye-containing wastewater. It has been estimated that up to 90% of reactive textile dyes still persist even after this treatment. What is the solution? Our solution is a membrane-based biological dye wastewater treatment system. White rot fungi has been shown to be able to degrade a wide range of organic pollutants including synthetic dyes. In recent years, many studies have focused on the use of white rot fungi to decolorize synthetic dyes due to its possibility to produce enzymes.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

First we have to select right fungi, which is able to produce enzymes to break down phenols and other aromatic compounds. Then treatment system is then inoculated with fungi which will begin to produce Laccase enzymes. These oxidase enzymes catalyze substrates at the expense of molecular oxygen and produce water as the only by-product. Membrane will filter molecules bigger than water through resulting in removal of up to 97% of dye and TOC. Resulting effluent will have no detectable color or odor. Total carbon is reduced to meet the environmental standards and it can be released to river or even better used again by water demanding textile industry.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Several physical and chemical methods including adsorption, ion exchange, ozonation, flocculation-coagulation, and oxidation have been used to treat dye containing wastewater. However, due to high cost involved, disposal problems most of these methods have not been widely applied. Our proposal, fungi wastewater treatment is currently unique in the market. Membrane-coupled fungi reactor combines the excellent degradation capability of the white-rot fungi with the inherent advantages of a membrane bioreactor. As a startup, our approach is special, even rare. There lies huge business potential.
About You
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Project
Organization Name
Organization Country

, OU, Oulu

Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

Less than a year

Your Solution
Founding Story: Share a story about the “Aha!” moment that led you to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.

Mycologist Paul Stamets treated fecal waste with mycelium of antibiotic fungi. His experiment treating oil-polluted soil by white rot mushroom was also a success. The stinky black soil became oasis of life. The use of enzymes to make dyes biodegradable has been studied. Hai Faisal's research of membrane reactor with fungi showed impressive results in treating dye wastewater.

Inspired by these experiments and shocked by severe water pollution in China when working in water treatment company JDL.Ltd, I determined to change this situation. The wastewater is not discharged to rivers in any developed country. Why should it be in China? The first step to create sustainable living is to treat water. The most important thing for life.

Select Sector(s): To which of Unilever's categories of sustainability does your solution apply?

Sanitation and Hygiene, Water, Waste, Sustainable Agriculture.

Measurable Impact
Audience: Who have you identified as your customers/recipients and why? How will you get your solution to them or engage them in your initiative?

Idea of green choice apparel supply chain is promoted. We see it as a sustainable challenge and an opportunity.

Textile manufactures will be our main customers. First, we will cooperate with Green Choice Alliance NGOs to pressure international brands to choose green manufactures. Second, we will collaborate with local villagers to supervise the treatment efficiency. Third, we will educate factories to treat water and help them to understand the beneficiaries of positive environment performance.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date and expected impact in the future?

Governments are setting strict standards and increasing the cost of violation. Local villagers are protesting against pollution of rivers. Biological treatment of hazardous dye wastewater is a cost-competitive and ecofriendly alternative to conventional chemical treatment. If implemented well, we will achieve considerable positive impacts on sustainable living:

First, River in Xintang, cadmium concentrations were 128 times above China’s environmental standards. Cadmium exposure can cause such as kidney and lung disease. After water treated properly, we estimate decrease in reproductive and fertility problems and other health problems.

Second, some factories that violate environmental regulations are part of the supply chains of major apparel brand; we expect to change this.

Third, the ecosystem begin its restoration in absence the of toxic pollution.

Growth, Finance & Leadership
Scaling the Solution: How do you intend to scale your activities over the next two years (e.g., reach new markets, diversify solutions, etc.)? What will make this possible?

Consumers start to buy sustainable manufactured clothing and apparel. Brands establish a system of environmental management of their printing and dyeing suppliers. Treating wastewater becomes a must do for textile factories. This creates a potential market for us:

Within next 2 years, our project will be the first to implement this method to treat water in developing countries. Primary, we will start in villages in China where suffered deeply from textile industries. Our team will negotiate with local governments to gain support and then we will educate both locals and factories the waste water treating methods. If success, we will build up our network in countries like India, and Bangladesh to spread our sustainable living movement.

Financial Sustainability: What is your business model to ensure financial sustainability?

We connect textile factories, brands, customers, and locals. Educating factories to treat water is our goal. Meanwhile we offer reports to brands regarding environment performance of their suppliers and call attention from customers.

Profits therefore will come from several parts: water treatment solutions for the textile companies; consulting service for both manufactures and textile brands that look for sustainable suppliers.

Experience: Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

Traveling all around world has made me see the reality- the huge gap between the rich and the impoverished. In some rural regions in Asia, clean water is out of reach for many locals there. As a chemistry student from Finland, I wonder what’s the use of my “privileged knowledge” if I live without making any changes for the world?

Here I took my initiative and started this project to make impossible possible.