Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are energy/carbon storage materials accumulated under unfavorable growth condition in the presence of excess carbon source. PHAs are attracting much attention as substitute for non-degradable petrochemically derived plastics because of their similar material properties to conventional plastics and complete biodegradability under natural environment upon disposal. In this paper, PHA production and degradation in waste environment as well as its role in biological phosphorus removal are reviewed. In biological phosphorus removal process, bacteria accumulating polyphosphate (poly P) uptake carbon substrates and accumulate these as PHA by utilizing energy from breaking down poly P under anaerobic condition. In the following aerobic condition, accumulated PHA is utilized for energy generation and for the regeneration of poly P. PHA production from waste has been investigated in order to utilize abundant organic compounds in waste water. Since PHA content and PHA productivity that can be obtained are rather low, PHA production from waste product should be considered as a coupled process for reducing the amount of organic waste. PHAs can be rapidly degraded to completion in municipal anaerobic sludge by various microorganisms. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.