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Turning food waste into a raw material for the bio-industry: that’s what the Waste2Func project is all about. Led by Israeli company TripleW, the project unites a consortium of partners including Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant (BBEPP) in Ghent (Flanders). It’s a twofer for the Flanders-based pilot plant: they can propose a solution for the 88 million tons of food thrown away annually in the EU, and also offer a circular alternative for products from the (petro)chemical industry.
BioBase Europe Pilot Plant in Ghent, Flanders

The end of waste as we know it

BBEPP is one of the largest European pilot plants for the bioeconomy, situated at North Sea Port Ghent, a world-class seaport located in Flanders. Working together with about ten companies, the factory aims to convert filtered food waste into raw materials for the bio-industry: namely, lactic acid and biosurfactants, two important ingredients in bioplastics, soaps and cosmetics. Among the other collaborators on the project is Ecover, SC Johnson’s pioneer in the production of organic detergents.

A real technological and logistical feat

Food waste contains all the necessary sugars that form the raw material for the bio industry. “The waste is first treated with enzymes, followed by a fermentation process in which we often use genetically modified microorganisms. After the final purification, a refined product remains,” says Sofie Lodens, project manager at BBEPP.

For the logistical part of the project, the company is planning to develop a registration system where food companies, auction houses and large agricultural companies can register their waste. BBEPP is currently looking at how best to organize these smaller waste collections, alongside Group Op de Beeck, a Flanders-based supplier of fertilizers with tons of experience in the processing of large batches of biological waste.

Everybody wins

According to preliminary estimates, this treatment process can increase the value of food waste by a factor of anywhere from 2 to 10, while producing CO₂ emissions that are a fifth lower than those from current processing methods. Sophie Roelants, innovation manager at BBEP: "Part of the extra value should return to the waste providers, to encourage them to make it available to us. That way, the system can boost uncertain returns in the agricultural sector."

With this project, we want to demonstrate that a lot of added value can be extracted from waste.

Sophie Roelants
innovation manager at BBEPP

Launched in 2009, BBEPP currently employs some 150 people. More than 300 projects have already been carried out at the plant. Most of the work is commissioned by companies, but a third of the projects are public commissions involving several partners. Partly thanks to European support, the Waste2Func project has a budget of EUR 14 million. 

Learn more about environmental technology and sustainability in Flanders.

Reported by
De Tijd newspaper

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