A simple method for the recovery of microbial poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) [P(3HB)] from recombinant Escherichia coli harboring the Ralstonia eutropha PHA biosynthesis genes was developed. Various acids (HCl, H2SO4), alkalies (NaOH, KOH, and NH4OH), and surfactants (dioctylsulfosuccinate sodium salt [AOT], hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide [CTAB], sodium dodecylsulfate [SDS], polyoxyethylene-p-tert-octylphenol [Triton X-100], and polyoxyethylene(20)sorbitan monolaurate [Tween 20]) were examined for their ability to digest non-P(3HB) cellular materials (NPCM). Even though SDS was an efficient chemical for P(3HB) recovery from recombinant E. coli, it is expensive and has waste disposal problem. NaOH and KOH were also efficient and economical for the recovery of P(3HB), and therefore, were used to optimize digestion condition. When 50 g DCW/L of recombinant E. coli cells having the P(3HB) content of 77% was treated with 0.2 N NaOH at 30 degrees C for 1 h, P(3HB) was recovered with purity of 98.5%. Using this simple recovery method, the effect of recovery method on the final production cost of P(3HB) was examined. Processes for the production of P(3HB) by recombinant E. coil from glucose with two different recovery methods, surfactant-hypochlorite digestion and simple digestion with NaOH, were designed and analyzed. By employing the fermentation process that resulted in P(3HB) concentration, P(3HB) content and P(3HB) productivity of 157 g/L, 77%, and 3.2 P(3HB) g/L-h, respectively, coupled with the recovery method of NaOH digestion, the production cost of P(3HB) was US$ 3.66/kg P(3HB), which was 25% less than that obtained by employing the surfactant-hypochlorite digestion method. (C) 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.