The Bio Based Industries Consortium Joint Undertaking (BBI-JU – Brussels, Belgium) has given WASTE2FUNC a EUR 6.7 million investment to design a logistics platform that collects food waste and converts it into bioplastics and biosurfactants. Food waste generated across the food industry is simply either discarded or incinerated if it falls below existing standards – meaning it can’t be sold. Waste2Func’s logistics platform will target these waste streams to reduce CO2 emissions and use the functional molecules within food waste to act as “building blocks” for bioplastics and ingredients to be used in a host of beneficial applications like personal care, household, and cosmetic products.
Slashing carbon emissions
“These emissions can be avoided by using these streams to convert them into high-value products”, says Waste2Func’s project coordinator, Sofie Lodens. “Waste2Func will build a logistics platform to collect the agricultural and food waste and will demonstrate the conversion technology at large scale”.
The logistics platform is expected to slash harmful CO2 emissions by 20% and boost the value of waste by two- to ten-fold. 12 partners from five countries are collaborating on the project, including City University of Hong Kong (Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong), NNFCC (York, United Kingdom), Boerenbond (Ede, the Netherlands), Inbio.be (Ghent, Belgium), Organic Waste Systems (OWS – Ghent, Belgium), TripleW (Netanya, Israel/Ghent, Belgium), Ecover (Malle, Belgium), Arche Consulting (Ghent/Leuven, Belgium), and Group Op de Beeck (Olen, Belgium).
Overcoming challenges with innovative technology
To begin, Waste2Func is developing a registration website and app to identify food waste streams in the food industry for collection. Boerenbond is working on the app in fair consultation with farmers, and waste collector, Group Op de Beeck, will also assist. Efficient conveyor systems can also be used to meet individual handling requirements during food waste collection. Roller conveyors, in particular, are cost-effective and allow for greater control and operational functionality.
Lactic acid already in production
“TripleW, an Israeli/Belgian SME and Ghent University together with the Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant have developed technology to convert mixed batches of food waste into functional ingredients, more specific lactic acid and microbial biosurfactants respectively, that can be used for the production of bioplastics and personal- and home care applications”, explains Lodens. In fact, production of lactic acid is already underway in Belgium. “TripleW has already started their lactic acid production batches in their demonstration plant on the site of Group Op de Beeck in Kallo, Belgium”.
Evonik (Essen, Germany) and Croda (Snaith, UK) are then set to test resulting waste-based microbial biosurfactants in their products, while Ecover will also evaluate potential uses for lactic acid and waste-based microbial biosurfactants in their products. Finally, Arche Consulting will navigate waste regulations throughout the process of bringing the final products to market.
After successfully designing the logistics platform, Waste2Func hopes the true potential of creating a cost-effective and sustainable biorefinery which collects valuable food waste and transforms it into functional materials will be clearly revealed – with a main “focus on the optimisation of the biosurfactant fermentation and purification processes for scalability”. The project first launched in 2021 and is marked for completion in or just before November 2024.
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