Abstract Demand for lactic acid is growing, especially, for its use in the production of biodegradable polymer (polylactate). The current method of production and separation of lactic acid is both expensive and unsustainable. This is partly due to the cost and lower efficiency of the current method for separating the lactic acid product from the fermentation media. Therefore, the development of alternative technology that will offer efficiency, economic and environmental benefits is of great importance. One of the promising technologies for recovery of lactic acid from fermentation broth is reactive liquid–liquid extraction. In this paper, processes based on reactive extraction of lactic acid into an organic phase and its recovery into an aqueous phase is examined. The percentages of extraction and recovery are determined by using a small pilot-scale microporous hollow-fibre membrane module (HFMM). Firstly, equilibrium experiments were conducted using organic solutions consisting of Aliquat 336 and trioctylamine (as carriers) and tributyl phosphate and sunflower oil (as solvents) The values of the distribution co-efficient (defined as a ratio of the concentration of lactic acid extracted over that remaining in the aqueous solution at equilibrium) were obtained as a function of feed pH (range 4.0–6.5), composition of the organic phase (ratio of carrier to solvent) and temperature (range 8–40°C). The best extraction was obtained with the organic phase of 15wt% tri-octylamine (TOA), 15% aliquat 336 dissolved in 35 wt% tri-butyl phosphate (TBP) and 35% sunflower oil. The percentage extraction from 0.1 M was approx. 70% after 4 h at pH 5.0 and at 35°C at a recirculating flow rate of 15–20 L/h. Lactic acid was reextracted from the organic phase by using 0.5 M sodium carbonate solution and approx. 90% recovery was obtained in 4 h. These results demonstrate that good extraction and recovery of lactic acid in the hollow-fibre membrane are possible. Also because of its potential for application in situ the process would allow to maintain lactic acid concentration at low levels during the fermentation and to improve productivity by suppressing the product inhibition effects.