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European project will collect agricultural, processing, retail and hospitality cast-offs

POTATO waste material from different parts of the supply chain could soon take on a new role as a major ingredient for various household goods throughout Europe.

The Bio Based Industries Consortium Joint Undertaking (BBI-JU) has given a grant 6,7 M€ budget to a project which will create a platform to collect food waste from agriculture, the food industry, supermarkets, auctions and restaurants. The project is called WASTE2FUNC and is based in Belgium. 

The food wastes that are often discarded, left on the field or incinerated will instead become raw materials to be converted into bioplastics and biosurfactants, with applications in cosmetics, household and personal care products. The conversion process uses industrial biotechnology. 

The project brings together 12 partners from five countries, including SMEs, large enterprises such as Croda, Evonik and Ecover, research institutes and agricultural associations. It aims to decrease CO2 emissions by at least 20%.

Project Coordinator Sofie Lodens explains: “These emissions can be avoided by using these streams to convert them into high-value products. 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 respectively. WASTE2FUNC will build a logistic platform to collect the agricultural and food waste and will demonstrate the conversion technology at large scale. ”

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The first challenge is the establishment of the logistic platform allowing efficient collection of food waste streams without end use. To this end, the project will develop a registration website/app that can be used to register food waste flows from the agriculture and food industry for collection by a waste collector. Farmers will be intensively consulted on how the project can make the collection of such food wastes worthwhile for them and what compensation should be given in return and thus look into a new revenue model for farmers. In addition, consultations will be held about the availability of these waste streams, both among farmers and the (food) industry.

The project's ultimate goal is to understand the potential of establishing a biorefinery in which functional molecules can be made from all the collected food waste in a sustainable and economically profitable way. These functional molecules can subsequently be used as building blocks for bioplastics and as ingredients in cosmetics, in biological detergents and in numerous other applications. 

Consortium partners are:
• (Ghent University): This research laboratory of Ghent University will look into development of strains and processes for microbial biosurfactant production.
•    City University of Hong Kong: The research laboratory of Prof. Carol Lin will optimise the food waste based microbial biosurfactant process.
•    Triple W: This Israeli/Belgian SME will look into process and strain development for the production of food waste-based lactic acid on an industrial scale.
•    Ecover: This large company will look into the application of both waste-based microbial biosurfactants and lactic acid in their products.
•    Boerenbond: The innovation service center within this farmers organization will look into the development of the registration app for agricultural waste together with the farmers.
•    Organic Waste Systems: This company will look into the economic, environmental and social assessment of the processes and technologies developed in the project.
•    Arche Consulting: This SME will look into all waste regulation and regulation for registration of the products for market uptake.
•    Group Op de Beeck: This large waste collector will provide one of their streams as feedstock and will assist in the enrolment of the new logistic platform.
•    Croda: This large company will look into the application of waste-based microbial biosurfactants in their products
•    Evonik: This large company will look into the application of waste-based microbial biosurfactants in their products
•    NNFCC: NNFCC is specialised in the bio based economy and will work on the feedstock mapping and business models coming out of the project.

The project kicked off in June 2021 and will end in November 2024. The total project budget is 13,965 M€ of which 6,7 M€ is budget from BBI-JU. 

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