Food waste is a problem that keeps happening around the world. But with the help of bigger institutions or initiatives, the problem can decrease a bit. With that in mind, here are 2 companies and a study that upcycle food waste into premium products.
People who follow eco conscious news may have already known this brand. But for those of you who don’t know, it’s a brand that makes nutritional supplement sustainably. It takes “bad” produce that usually ends up in the landfill and turns it into powders and then a lot of nutritional products.
Some of Outcast Foods products include Plant Strong Protein in different flavors, the Supper Greens+ blend, and Vegan Multi- for Optimal Health. All from upcycled materials.
Furthermore, the brand has struck a deal with retailer Sobeys to reuse and upcycle a portion of unwanted food. Cofounder TJ Galiardi said, “It’s pretty revolutionary in the grocery world. We take it and we process it immediately by dehydrating it.”
The dehydration process allows up to three years of shelf life. After that, the dried produce transforms into plant-based protein powders by Outcast Foods. Or, sold to other companies as a material for pet food and healthy snacks.
Produce in grocery stores
Sobeys has a goal to reduce its food waste by 50% by 2025. So, this partnership is advantageous to the retail company as well. Other than Outcast Foods, the Canadian company works with Feed Nova Scotia, donating some of the food it can’t sell.
The company’s vice president of sustainability said, “By nature, produce has a short shelf life and it is important that we work with partners to redirect unsellable but fit for consumption items out of our landfills.”
Additionally, Galiardi said that there are many reasons when grocery stores don’t sell the food.
“Sometimes if the truck is delayed, whether that’s in a snowstorm or the trucker falls asleep a little too long at the truck stop, it shows up a little too close to it’s ‘best if used by’ date,
“So Sobeys doesn’t want to incur the cost of shipping it out to all of their various stores so that food is deemed waste and typically the practice was for it to end up in a landfill before we came along,” said Galiardi.
Not just with Sobeys, Outcast Foods also works with local farmers so that their unsellable but edible produce won’t go to waste.
In Nova Scotia alone, food is a problem. People don’t always have easy access to affordable and healthy food in this province. And, it has some of the highest rates of food insecurity in Canada.
According to Galiardi, the top five fruit and vegetables in this province produced about 53 million kilograms of food waste.
Nutraceutical ingredients from wine industry waste
Actually, this one’s more like an initiative because there are 3 groups working together to combat food waste. The three groups are Swisse Wellness, the Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) and Swinburne University of Technology.
Just like the subheading suggests, this initiative deals around by-products of the Australian wine industry. Apparently, they’re perfect for upcycling.
Swisse Wellness CEO Nick Mann stated that this project would enable his company to source premium Australian grape seed extract. It would then go into local and export markets across Asia.
“From a Swisse perspective, this is a great opportunity to continue to deliver premium products, via an improved process,
“We are really excited that this ultra-premium grapeseed extract will come from the grape seeds leftover from wine production in the growing regions of Yarra Valley and the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas,
“Additionally, as a Victorian born and bred brand, it is a nice link to other local industry and to local agriculture. Creating a new ultra-premium tier in the market, using locally grown and processed ingredients will help further grow the category, whilst also benefiting the environment,
“This is a highly sought-after ingredient in the Australian nutraceutical industry with health benefits including collagen formation, skin health, and antioxidant activity,” said Mann.
Swisse Wellness isn’t working alone. As mentioned, it’s a 3-group initiative.
Firstly, the research partner for this initiative, Swinburne University. Project leader Prof. Enzo Palombo aims to utilize 250 tonnes of Victorian grape marc in the production of grape seed extract for Swisse.
Palombo said, “We’ve done laboratory validation, technical feasibility and yield optimisation, therefore the next stage of commercialization is establishing a pilot plant capable of producing the required quantity and purity of grape seed extract for Swisse,
“Together with our industry collaborators, Viridi Innovation and Austeng, we will work towards producing fully traceable Australian grape seed extract for Swisse this season to go into their premium product.”
Secondly, another partner, Fight Food Waste CRC. The CEO Dr. Steven Lapidge said that this project is actually so easy in terms of industry waste transformation. But, it’s not a simple task and achievable through collaboration.
“Through investing in research and development we will deliver new high-value commercial opportunities for the participants of this project while at the same time fighting food waste in Australia,” said Lapidge.
Turning waste into medicine or supplements
We’re moving on to the study/research. A team led by Associate Professor Yan Ning and Assistant Professor Zhou Kang from NUS could turn prawn and crab shells into L-DOPA. It’s a well-known drug to treat Parkinson’s disease.
There’s also a similar method applicable to convert wood waste into Proline. It’s an organic acid essential for the formation of healthy collagen and cartilage.
Singapore is a country that generated over 438,000 tonnes of wood waste in 2019. Among which include branches pruned from trees and sawdust from workshops.
Instead of letting food and agricultural waste end up in landfills or somewhere else, upcycling is a better option.
Chemicals from waste
In order to not use crude oil or gas to recycle waste, the NUS researchers came up with a process. It combines chemical approach with a biological process.
First, they applied chemical processes to the waste materials and converted them into a substance so that microbes can process them.
Second, the biological process. It’s similar to the fermentation of grapes into wine. But here, they engineered special strains of bacteria such as E. coli to convert the substance produced in the chemical process into a higher value product such as amino acids.
Now, L-DOPA is conventionally produced from L-tyrosine. It’s a chemical that requires sugar fermentation. With NUS team’s process, shell waste gets a simple chemical treatment so microbes can use it. And in the end, L-DOPA production.
The yield from NUS method is similar to the traditional method. But, compared to glucose that costs between US$400 to US$600 per ton, shrimp waste costs only around US$100 per ton.
Shell waste is everywhere, with an annual 8 million tonnes of waste globally. Not only abundant, this waste is cheap. Consequently, NUS team’s process may provide L-DOPA at a lower cost too.
On the other hand, conventional Proline production goes through pure biological processes. It may sound good, but it’s slow-paced. NUS team’s method has replaced most of the transformations using chemical processes, which are much faster.
After this, the team is trying to adapt their newly-found process to other forms of waste like CO2 and wastepaper.
Another thing is that the team is also planning to scale up the processes they have. They want to commercialize this technology and work with industrial partners.
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