Manufacturers often have food waste they’d like to offload. That might include off-spec or expired ingredients. And as municipalities tighten dumping laws, companies are looking for alternative outlets for their problem ingredients.
And that’s where scientific research comes in. Some progress has been made in converting food materials into new products, including into bioplastics and biofuels. Here’s what R&D teams are working on that could change how we manage future industrial food waste.
But first, why we need to recycle food waste
As landfills swell to capacity, municipalities are looking for ways to better manage waste and the demand it places on landfills.
And the challenges are great, including juggling environmental regulations and creating cost-efficient recycling programs.
Now more than ever, break-through research is important for changing the treatment of food waste. And that’s where turning plant and animal matter into plastics and fuels comes in.
What is bioplastic?
Merriam Webster describes bioplastic as “biodegradable plastic that is made or derived from biological materials.”
Bioplastics have been around for a while. But in the 1990s, scientists began creating biodegradable plastics from starches, sugars and cellulose.
Turning plant materials into plastic
Nothing says “plastic” more than Lego’s. Soon, however, the iconic petroleum-based construction bricks will include bioplastic pieces (and packaging) created from sugar cane.
In fact, Lego plans to make the switch to sustainable materials by 2030.
This type of bioplastic, made from a newable plant source, possibly shows promise for downgraded ingredients that would otherwise go to waste.
Almond waste to plastics
Every year after harvest, almond farmers have to discard of the outer almond casings, or hulls, leftover from their crops. In fact, for every pound of almonds they produce, they’re left with around two pounds of hulls.
Now, they’re able to turn the hulls into bioplastic. The process includes turning the hulls to a powder and adding the powder to bio-based or recycled plastics to strengthen the material.
Also, blackened and ground almond shells can be added to recycled plastics for coloring purposes. The dense color of the almond powder creates as dense black hue. It may even work for coloring tire rubber — which currently requires a petroleum-based product.
By processing the almond husk plant materials — and possibly food waste — into new substances, they can be used to create new products.
Industrial food waste for Biofuel
Another bio-related product includes biofuel — fuel made from plant and animal materials.
Biofuel development grew throughout the 20th century as oils prices climbed and the reduction of carbon emissions became more regulated.
And the pursuit for better biofuels continues. So, at a time when industries are looking for alternatives to fossil fuels, the “living-matter” fuels are a good option.
For example, scientists are working with food waste to develop new biofuels. That includes recent testing on parmesan cheese, ham and apples.
The outcomes so far allow scientists to better understand the molecular composition of food waste and its potential as a fuel suitable enough to power vehicles.
Change is happening
As research continues, scientists will find ways to create new products from food waste. Current developments include using sugarcane, dairy products and meat to create new products. The research is exciting and holds the potential to change the landscape of food waste management.
What are your thoughts on recycling industrial food ingredients? Have you discovered any new developments for recycling ingredients and keeping waste out of the landfills? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
At Ingredient Exchange, we’re pretty passionate about recycling food ingredients. We work with a vast network of buyers who creatively turn industrial food waste into new products. So, if you’d like to spend less on landfill fees and turn your problem ingredients into cash, please give us a call!