A global collaborative effort has brought together 12 participants from five countries to build a platform that can convert food waste into bio-based plastic.
Participants include SMEs and large enterprises such as Evonik, Croda, Ecover, research institutes, and agricultural associations.
Food waste is a huge problem worldwide, and according to Food and Agriculture of the United Nations, people waste nearly 1.4 billion tonnes of food each year, such as fruits and vegetables that don’t meet visual appearance standards or processed food that businesses can no longer sell. These are often discarded, left to rot, or even incinerated – leading to unnecessary carbon emissions.
Instead of going to waste, the European BBI-JU funded project Waste2Func has been granted US$6.7 million in funding to create a system that can efficiently collect food waste from agriculture, the food industry, auctions, supermarkets, and restaurants and turn them into bio-based plastic and biosurfactants.
“These emissions can be avoided by using these streams to convert them into high-value products,” explains Sofie Lodens, project coordinator at Waste2Func.
According to Loden, Israeli-Belgian SME TripleW, Ghent University, and bio-based Europe Pilot Plant have developed a technology that can convert mixed batches of food waste into functional ingredients such as lactic acid and microbial biosurfactants that can be used for the manufacturing of bio-based plastic and home care products.
“We will build a logistic platform to collect the agricultural and food waste and demonstrate the conversion technology on a large scale,” she added.
Farmers will also be consulted on how the project can make food waste collection worthwhile through compensation or look into a new revenue model.
According to the collaborative, their ultimate goal is to establish a sustainable and profitable biorefinery that utilises functional molecules from food waste.
The project was launched in June last year and is projected to complete by November 2024, with a total budget of $15.4 million.
- Triple W will look into process and strain development to cultivate food waste-based lactic acid on an industrial scale.
- Ecove will look at applying both waste-based microbial biosurfactants and lactic acid in their products.
- Boerenbond is an innovation service centre within a farmer organisation that will look into developing the registration app for agricultural waste together with the farmers.
- Group Op de Beeck is a waste collection company that will offer one of its streams as feedstock and assist in enrolling the new logistic platform.
- Croda will investigate applying waste-based microbial biosurfactants in its products.
- Evonik will look into applying waste-based microbial biosurfactants.
- NNFCC specialises in the bio-based economy and will work on the feedstock mapping and business models coming out of the project.
- Organic Waste Systems will research economic, environmental and social assessments of the processes and technologies developed in the project.
- In.be (Ghent University)‘s research laboratory will probe the development of strains and processes for microbial biosurfactants.
- The City University of Hong Kong‘s research laboratory led by Prof Carol Lin will optimise the food waste-based microbial biosurfactant process.
- Arche Consulting, an SME, will look into all waste regulations and regulations for registration of the products needed for market uptake.
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