Lactic acid and biosurfactants sourced from sustainable agricultural and industrial (food) WASTE feedstocks as novel FUNCtional ingredients for consumer products.
With Europe’s admirable aspirations to create a circular economy, the focus increasingly falls on minimising waste and finding new applications for otherwise underexploited or unused resources. Food waste is a particular problem here; some sources estimated that – in 2012 – there were almost 90 million tonnes of food waste generated in the EU. This arose at all stages of the food production chain - primary production, processing, wholesale and retail, food service – as well as from domestic settings. If the EU is to be successful in its ambitions, it urgently needs to address this issue.
However, developing any effective response will be challenging; the sources of waste – and thus the potential biomass – is scattered across multiple locations, making it difficult to collect. In addition, supply is intermittent and available volumes vary according to a number of influences. This makes it challenging to ensure reliable supplies and establish sustainable supply chains as a result. The upshot is that such waste regularly finds its way to low-value applications such as biofuels or to no-value outcomes such as landfill or incineration, with the subsequent contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
To address this problem, the WAST2FUNC project is seeking to create, as a demonstration, a new and sustainable biomass waste supply chain. This will integrate fluctuating supplies of agricultural food crop biomass waste with an industrial food waste supply chain in order to demonstrate the potential for converting this combined stream into lactic acid and microbial biosurfactants as functional ingredients of home and personal care applications. In so doing, it will increase up to ten times as much value from these waste streams, will reducing CO2 emissions by 20% and increasing employment where the waste streams are sourced, in Belgium where the demonstration will take part as well as in the rest of Europe.
The overarching objective of the WASTE2FUNC project is to demonstrate the viability of valorising intermittent food waste streams in a way that makes them sustainable enough to build reliable value chains and increase their value. Within this, the project will pursue a number of specific objectives.
- From an environmental perspective, WASTE2FUNC will decrease overall CO2 emissions within the new value chains by at least 20%. It will do so not only by reducing biogas production from food waste but also via a drop in landfill and incineration but also through the fermentation processes used. The reliance of techniques such as smart logistics (to reduce transport emissions) and by incorporating agricultural crop wastes that are usually left in the field to decay (and emit CO2) will also contribute to reductions. In addition, it will help replace a number of fossil- and palm oil-derived surfactants currently in use.
- From an economic perspective, the project will substantially increase the value of the outputs from food waste biomass – by two to ten times - over conversion to biogas, considered to be the current state-of-the-art. It will also pioneer at least four new consumer prototype products that will add further value to this biomass source. In addition, it will create and expand opportunities for biomass suppliers and service provider in the biobased industry sector.
- From a societal perspective, the project will create new employment in the biobased sector in both rural and urban areas. It will also assist in social development in the rural sector by adding new value chains and by creating new high-tech jobs.
The project will also strive to increase awareness of the scale of food waste and its potential inherent value as a source of biomass.
The WASTE2FUNC project is aims to make a number of impacts capable of contributing to the wider goals of the BBI-JU. These will include:
- Creating several new cross-sectoral interconnections in the bio-based economy; between farmers and the home and personal care sectors; between biomass waste collector and biogas sector and the home and personal care sectors; between the food sector and the home and personal care sectors and between the biomass waste collector sector and the biotechnology sector.
- Establishing three new bio-based integrated value chains involving a range of different stakeholders including farmers, SMEs and the consumer.
- Demonstrating six four new prototype consumer products based on second-generation lactic acid and consumer products. These products will be home and personal care products such as liquid laundry detergents, shampoos, body washes and hand soaps as well as potentially cosmetics applications.