C-Tech Innovation, a UK based technology development company, is leading the three year EXCIL project that involves collaboration with key stakeholders including Heineken UK, seafood processor West Coast Sea Products, the Sea Fish Industry Authority, waste management firm SITA UK and Imperial College London.
The research is being by funded by a UK government agency, the Technology Strategy Board, with the stated objective being to provide a new approach to solving the environmental and financial costs involved in disposal of food and brewing waste through a sustainable and resource efficient method.
Highly selective extraction of material from complex systems can be achieved under mild conditions using custom designed ionic liquids, and the project hopes to allow recovery of glucosamine, chitin, and chondroitin from seafood waste as well as polyphenols from brewing, claims C-Tech Innovation’s Rachel James, who is managing the project.
The EXCIL project, she continued, also aims to model seafood and brewing waste streams, develop a waste extraction prototype and then scale it up to industrial level.
Ms James said that these liquids, which are a salt in a liquid state, have high selectivity in terms of similar compound separation. They are also, she said, non volatile, recyclable, environmentally benign and economically viable on a large scale.
Much research has focused on the use of ionic liquids for the separation of synthetic goods, plastics and metals in a mixed waste stream.
Ms James explained that the science lead on the project is Dr Sue Grimes, professor in waste management technology at Imperial College, who is evaluating the selectivity capabilities of ionic liquids for the recovery of the highly valuable nutraceutical compounds.
“Early results from the research being undertaken by the team led by Dr Grimes are really promising and indicate that the project’s goal of being able to extract compounds such as glucosamine and chondroitin from processing waste is achievable,” she said.
According to research from the UK Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP), total annual food waste in the UK amounts to around 18-20 million tonnes – with food processors estimated to generate about 20 per cent of this.
Retailers are believed to generate about 1.6 million tonnes, with food service and restaurants producing about another 3 million tonnes. The remainder comes from the agricultural and horticultural sector, and commercial food waste from such sources as hospitals and schools.
Household food waste contributes an estimated 6.7 million tonnes per year.