We all know that food waste is a huge economic and environmental problem. But did you know that only 46% of food waste is generated by consumers? In fact, 51% of waste in Europe takes place during the primary production and processing stages. The Pro-Enrich Project aims to change that.
Food Waste in Europe
A fifth of all food produced in Europe is lost as waste, especially in grains, fruits, and vegetables, adding up to 88 million tons of food every year and costing 143 billion euros annually. The problem of waste is not simply that it costs food and money that can be better used to serve human interests. It is also that producing this food costs fresh water, energy, and human labor, while contributing to greenhouse gases and carbon emissions, without benefitting anyone. Reducing food waste seems like one of the most efficient ways to improve land and water use and reduce environmental impact, without negatively affecting consumers or businesses. But how can we do that?
The Pro-Enrich Project
The Pro-Enrich Project seeks to find opportunities in food processing waste. One of the most interesting aspects of food processing is that the waste is in large quantities, homogenous, and concentrated. For example, processing olives into oil produces tons of olive waste: unlike post-consumer waste, it does not need to be sorted or separated, and it’s available in enormous quantities. Pro-Enrich believes that these waste products can be processed into valuable functional ingredients for use in a wide range of industries.
Backed by a huge range of environmental and industrial partners, Pro-Enrich imagines using food waste biomass and processing it in a cascading biorefinery, much like an oil refinery. At one step, they may focus on extracting plant fibers from food waste. At the next step, they may extract proteins. Another step may extract bioactive molecules and phenolic compounds. The idea is that the system extracts maximum value from every part of the waste biomass, and then supplies compounds and components to industry partners.
Because every type of biomass is different, Pro-Enrich has to develop specialized biorefineries. Their experiments so far have focused on rapeseed, olive, tomato, and citrus waste, extracting compounds for use in food, cosmetics, animal feed, and cosmetics.
The Pro-Enrich project seeks to build a model for the biorefinery concept, identifying optimal processes, high market potential components, using system analysis to make the processes economically attractive, and making sustainability assessments to determine environmental benefits. To achieve that goal, they are working with universities, food processors, and functional ingredient firms to define the entire value chain.
Tate & Lyle Supports Pro-Enrich
Tate & Lyle is one of the key supporting partners of the Pro-Enrich project. As an ingredient firm, they are seeking more sustainable, plant-based solutions for their customers. Tate & Lyle believes the biorefinery process may be a great way to reduce waste, improve environmental impact, and extract high-quality plant proteins and compounds for the ingredient industry at the same time. Tate & Lyle recently announced that they exceeded their own 2020 environmental targets, reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 25% and their waste-to-landfill by 37% since 2008. This adds up to protecting the carbon captured by nearly 1 million acres of forestry.
Much of the waste-to-landfill reduction was achieved by internal processes that reclaim more organic solids from waste biomass. The company has a further goal to use 100% of its waste beneficially by 2030, keeping with its mission of Improving Lives for Generations.
Other Methods of Reducing Industrial Food Product Waste
While many companies reduce waste-to-landfill by simply selling waste as animal feed, the EU is focused on trying to promote a circular economy, closing the waste cycle altogether. In Nordic countries, 22% of food waste is designated for production of biogas, while 12% is composted and 30% is incinerated.
Swedish biotech startup Mycorena uses fungal fermentation to convert the carbohydrates in waste into high-quality plant-based proteins, suitable for use in a wide range of applications. Advanced research is identifying high-value lipids, proteins, and dietary fibers in food waste like mango seeds, pineapple skins, and banana peels that could be used to reduce waste while improving food security.
The world has moved on from the reduce-reuse-recycle into a new realm of zero waste, and many innovative firms are finding new opportunities in food waste. Extracting all the possible value from our collective investment in the land, water, labor, and energy it takes to grow food simply makes sense. Grapefrute supports these sustainable companies promoting a waste-free future.