As we explained in the post on the Waste Recovery Guide, the increase in waste generation in recent years is growing alarmingly. Among them, agri-food waste stands out. In today’s post, the ATRIA materials team is going to show you the great importance that the correct recovery of this waste can entail. Do not miss it!
What is agri-food waste?
Agri-food waste can be defined as waste generated at any point in the food supply chain, which includes the stages of production, post-harvest, industrial processing, distribution, domestic processing and consumption thereof.
Volumes of food waste differ between phases of the supply chain. 47% of agri-food waste is produced in food processing factories.
What is the recovery of agri-food waste?
As we indicated in the post Waste recovery guide, waste recovery consists of transforming it to be able to give it another use, fulfilling a new function or constituting materials for use in other industrial processes. Thanks to the recovery of waste, the accumulation of these is reduced, and, therefore, its environmental impact.
The main property of agri-food waste is that it has a high added value. Some of the second opportunities that may arise are from fruit waste from the production of juice for cosmetic products to vegetable and vegetable waste (such as lettuce or broccoli) destined to the manufacture of containers for the maintenance of food.
Therefore, the processes of valorization of agri-food waste are currently presented as an opportunity to obtain resources at low cost and as an action that affects the well-being of the environment.
How to value an agri-food waste?
The recovery of agri-food waste depends mainly on the characteristics of each waste. Therefore, the recovery strategies will vary depending on the conditions in which each by-product is found. Among them, special attention must be paid to:
- Waste pretreatment. The availability of the by-product is crucial to define a recovery strategy. In some cases, a pretreatment of the material is required where separation, classification or size adjustment processes are involved.
- Volume of the residue. In some cases, it is necessary to collect a large size of waste so that its recovery is profitable and efficient.
- Variability over time. Along the same lines as the volume of the waste, it is important to take into account the residence time of the waste and the conditions in which it is stored. In some cases, long-term storage can lead to its degradation.
Currently, valuations of by-products of vegetable origin have been reported, such as the transformation and revaluation of residues from the wine sector to produce alcohol, oils, colorants or fertilizers for subsequent agri-food application. Another of the most characteristic cases that has been reported is the new formulation of products for the nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, food, animal nutrition and cosmetic sectors, based on chard, garlic, kale, broccoli or tomato waste. Examples of the recovery of animal waste have also been reported, such as the recovery of chicken eggshells to produce calcium, collagen, elastin and natural glycosaminoglycans with application in nutraceuticals, functional foods, biofertilizers and adsorbents with application in the chemical sector.
Benefits of the recovery of agri-food waste
Due to the increase in waste, the circular economy is presented as a fundamental way to alleviate this situation. In this circular economy, we all play the leading role, from the primary sector, in charge of food production, and the secondary sector, whose job is its transformation and distribution, to final consumers, who have to become aware that the economy Circular can be a breakthrough with benefits for our environment and for the economy.
In general, the two main benefits that the recovery of agri-food waste can bring are:
- Reinsertion of waste as bioactive principles with high added value. Agri-food waste has, naturally, in its composition biocomposites such as proteins, oligosaccharides, phospholipids, etc. that can give rise to formulations with very interesting properties in the nutritional, cosmetic or chemical industry.
- New applications of by-products. In addition to having very important bioactive principles, many of the agri-food by-products have structural materials that make them valuable construction materials in the industrial sector.
- Cost savings in waste treatment. It is produced in cost savings by not having to process agri-food waste to landfill, but a profit is obtained by being sold to another company as raw material.
All this means that the circular economy is considered a key element for reducing agri-food waste. Their reintroduction would mean a reduction in the consumption of non-renewable energies and a reduction in the amount of water used in industrial production and its pollution, all resulting in a very respectful action with the environment.
At ATRIA we are experts in giving agri-food waste a second chance. Our objective is very clear: to take advantage of every gram of waste, making the most of it, always acting with the point of view set on saving energy and money and always through actions that are respectful of the environment.
Next, we show you some of the projects carried out in ATRIA that led to success in the recovery of agri-food waste.
- Limonene and pectin extraction from orange pulp. Obtain valuable by-products from a processed product of the juice industry, low value, low profitability and seasonal consumption aimed at animal feed. ATRIA designed a sustainable process for the extraction of limonene and pectin from orange pulp. In addition, a search was carried out for potential customers for these new by-products. As a final result, the profitability of our client was increased by the sale of a product with high added value.
- Obtaining biostimulants from algae. Algae are fascinating living beings, capable of surviving in extreme environmental conditions (alkaline soils, highly mineralized stagnant waters, different temperatures, etc.). For this reason, they are widely studied so that their residues can be used for other applications. Among them, its application as a biostimulant stands out, since algae extracts are capable of providing plants with vital nutrients for their proper development. In this project, the extraction of algae was carried out under different environmental conditions, obtaining different extracts whose viability was tested in pepper plants.
- Use of beer bagasse for new products. Beer bagasse is a by-product of the brewing process, it is estimated that between 17 and 23 kilos are produced per hectoliter of beer produced. This is 85% of the total waste / by-products generated in this industry. It is a compound rich in fiber, proteins, minerals and vitamins of group B, with antioxidant activity. After an exhaustive study of the properties of bagasse and its possible applications, the ATRIA team found that this material could have special powers in biofuels, food, cosmetics, construction or tissue engineering.
- Valorization of the pomegranate peel. The pomegranate is a fruit considered of interest for different sectors due to its content in polyphenols, specifically hydrolyzable tannins from the group of ellagitannins, which would be responsible for the antioxidant, antimutagenic, anticancer and anti-inflammatory character of this fruit. The peel of the pomegranate that is currently discarded in the production of juices or used as raw material for animal feed, constitutes a very economical source of natural antioxidants that is still little exploited at an industrial level. After an exhaustive study of the properties and extraction methods of this material, the ATRIA team concluded that it could be of particular interest in applications as additives, preservatives, antioxidants or supplements to combat diseases.
Would you like to study ways of revaluation of any of your agri-food waste? Do you have a strategy for the revaluation of agri-food waste in mind and you don’t know how to carry it out? Contact us!