1 million tonnes of waste cuttings (external leaves, stems, etc.) from vegetables prior to processing are generated every year in Europe and 3.4 million of barley husks as a result of beer brewing processes. These sub-products are currently thrown away or managed by means of techniques that are not very environment-friendly, despite the fact that they contain considerable quantities of high-value components.
It is within this context that the REPRO (Reducing Food Processing Waste) has arisen, the project in which GAIKER is taking part together with the project leader, the UK Institute of Food Research, as well as another 11 Research Centres in Holland, France, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Turkey, Lithuania and South Africa.
The aim of REPRO, which will last for three years, is to develop advanced methods for recycling and reassessing these sub-products - rich in biopolymers, phytochemicals, nutrients and micronutrients - in order to obtain products with greater added value and aimed at agrifood sector and the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. To satisfy this objective, the project has taken on board four fundamental and inter-related activities:
- The design of procedures for microbiological safety and stability and the traceability of the co-products
- El development of enzymatic bio-processes specific for the deconstruction and obtaining of made-to-measure components
- The integration of these enzymic bio-processes into innovative physical processes in order
To develop hybrid systems, promoting, moreover, the re-use of the process water
- The minimising of market risks associated with these new processes and products, ensuring their economic and environmental acceptance by the consumer, the distributor and the Authorities.
The area for the application of the REPRO project results is undoubtedly quite wide. It includes, on the one hand, the food industry sectors of brewing and vegetable processing as well as those belonging to associated sectors (e.g. the drinks sector) in which organic residues are generated and which have a potential of recovery of valuable products.
On the other hand, the results of this project can be equally valuable for those food industries interested in the incorporation of high value-added ingredients and for chemical and pharmaceutical companies seeking to develop new, alternative compounds derived from natural sources.