Awakes The Giant Inside of Indonesian’s BioEconomy

By : Ikhwan Abdillah (School of Life Sciences and Technology)

Indonesia has a huge number of cellulose resources. That cellulose is raw materials for lactic acid production. Nowadays almost industrial applications need the lactic acid. Imagine it, if we can maximize all the cellulose resources that can be found from organic waste from Sabang until Merauke, Indonesia can awake their giant within of economical power by lactic acid-based industrial applications. Imagine it, just from the “organic waste capital.


Lactic acid and its derivatives have been used widely in industrial applications. It has also been receiving great attention as a feedstock for manufacture of polylactic acid (PLA), a biodegradable polymer used as environmentally friendly biodegradable plastic. Lactic acid is produced commercially either by chemical synthesis or by microbial fermentation. Approximately 90% of the total lactic acid produced worldwide is made by bacterial fermentation and the rest is produced synthetically by the hydrolysis of lactonitrile.(Mukund, 2006)

Human, animal and plant produce lactic acid naturally as the side product of metabolism. From the starch as the nutrition resource of metabolism, it will be perfectly converted to energy and CO2. But in such condition when there are not enough O2 it won’t be perfectly converted and some of the starch is converted became lactic acid. The accumulation of lactic acid in body cell that is cause of muscle exhausted. Cellulose in plant is also kind of polysaccharide that could be converted to lactic acid.(Rodriquez, 2007)

World Demand of Lactic Acid

United States has surpassed Western Europe as the 1st largest consumer in 2001-2002 period for PLA Industry. In full capacity, PLA industry need 180,000 m3 tons lactic acid per year. In recent years, Other Asia has replaced Western Europe as the second-largest consumer of lactic acid products. Both the United States and Other Asia will continue to experience high annual growth—11% and 10%, respectively—in the next few years. Globally, lactic acid consumption will continue to increase significantly, at about 9% per year from 2005 to 2010.

In the recent few years, lactic acid consumption has dominated food industry and beverage industry. This shift is expected continue rapidly growth, by 2010, industrial applications will account for half of global lactic acid use.

Growth in lactic acid and its esters in industrial applications will be driven by lactic acid–based biodegradable polymers and, to a lesser degree, lactate solvents. The use of polylactic acid, especially in the plastics packaging and container markets, is being highly promoted because of its environmentally friendly characteristics. Environmental benefits include product biodegradability; composting of waste by-products from PLA production; growth in the use of plant-based materials, which reduces carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and the potential energy saved versus conventional polymer production. In the United States, PLA demand for industrial applications such as fibers, containers and packaging is expected to continue to increase. Likewise, demand for PLA will increase significantly in Western Europe, mainly for packaging uses (No name1, 2007)

As an example, the product of cosmetics that made from lactic acid is $44.95 per 100 ml (No name2, 2007). In recent monetary currency it is equal to IDR 418,035. A big value for the Indonesian’s consumption rate and very valuable for Indonesian’s pupil earn.

Lactic Acid Production and Its Raw Materials

One way to produced lactic acid is through the fermentation of sugar from the microorganism Lactobacillus. Under optimal conditions of 370C and with the sugar glucose present Lactobacillus will convert glucose to lactic acid with one hundred percent yield.

However, glucose is only one of many sugars found in nature. More complex pentose sugars such as: L-arabinose (arabinose), D-ribose (ribose) and D-xylose (xylose), are present in vast quantities in herbaceous crops and hardwoods. These materials or biomass are potential sources of (Indonesia) hopes one day soon to be able to turn into an alternative energy source. Yet, Lactobacillus under normal conditions is unable to degrade these complex sugars and without the degradation of these sugars, alternative energy from biomass is limited.(Kious, 2000)

Awake the Giant

Indonesia is one of the largest producer of cellulose. From sugar industry, cassava plant, organic waste from grass beside the highway (jalan tol) and palm-oil plant. From Sabang to Merauke, cellulose from organic waste almost found in huge number day by day. Every days thousand metric of cellulose from that resource is burned or become an waste that will need a lot of cost to reduce or unwanted pollutant in the environment.

Based on the method before, that all of those are the potential resource for produce the lactic acid. We just need the pretreatment for those substrate for inoculate the lactic acid-producer bacteria and fungi. We can directly inoculate Lactobacillus that can easily find in yoghurt. Besides, we can also inoculate the Rhizopus fungi that also widely spread in this tropical country as the lactic acid producer.(Li Ping, 2004)

We can do those things as home-based industry by processing it in small scale by our own self. After we have done it by pretreatment of inoculate, we can send it to center of lactic acid production in our district. This kind of business can be managed by using the “koperasi” system according for adapting in Indonesian’s culture.

As I told before this is such as a good business for building an economical rate of Indonesia. Koperasi can be directly managed by the laboratory of environment, biology or industry (food or beverage) in some district. In my opinion, this method also can be effective in reducing the organic waste in those district. By using microbes fermentation we can make other choice for processing the organic waste besides incinerate, burn and bury it. We can ferment it with a low cost-process and potential high-earn. From the unwanted material will be the most wanted waste. Now without Indonesia play in lactic acid industry, Asia has already become the second largest consumer. Imagine it, by the time we start to take a role of that industry, Asia will be raise significantly as the largest producer and consumer of lactic acid.

As a student of biology this is really our role in community for contributing not only the scientific theory but also smart solution in environment and economical building. If we start it later or after graduate? Who can guarantee this idea will be conduct? If you think this is good, do it! If it’s not, tell to the writer. Because we are only a human, but we are human. We can’t do everything, but we can do something.


  • Mukund G. Adsul, Anjani J. Varmab and Digambar V. Gokhale. 2007. Lactic acid production from waste sugarcane bagasse derived cellulose. The Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Li Ping Huanga, Bo Jina, Paul Lanta, Jiti Zhouc. 2005. Simultaneous saccharification and fermentation of potato starch wastewater to lactic acid by Rhizopus oryzae and Rhizopus arrhizus. Biochemical Engineering Journal
  • Jessica J. Kious. 2000. Lactobacillus and Lactic Acid Production. Applied Biological Sciences Branch, Alternative Fuels Division, National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Le Tourneau University


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: