Food processing

New Zealand Food Processing Waste Recycling

New Zealand Food Processing Waste Recycling

A research project led by University of Canterbury environmental science professor Brett Robinson aims to find ways to transform waste from New Zealand’s food production industry – such as milk processing waste and grape pomace (skins and stems) – into valuable soil amendments and animals. to feed.

According to Robinson, about 2.2 million tonnes of food processing waste is dumped in New Zealand every year, costing around NZ$270 million a year and increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our goal is to create a more sustainable circular agricultural economy, where bio-waste can be transformed into useful new products to feed animals or improve our soils.

“There is huge potential to create a win-win situation where we significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while potentially boosting our economy by more than $1.6 billion a year.”

The research team is working with 21 food processing companies that are part of Venture Timaru and want to explore options for recycling their waste.

“A lot of it is industry-driven,” Robinson said. “We are developing science in response to industry demands.

The project aims to use microorganisms extracted from plants as agents to turn food processing waste into valuable products.

Robinson leads a team of scientists from the University of Canterbury with experts from the University of Lincoln (led by Dr Racheal Bryant), plant and food research (led by Dr Brendon Malcolm) and Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research (led by Dr. David Whitehead and Dr. Manpreet Dhami).

Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research has a unique and curated collection of over 20,000 strains of bacteria and fungi from plants around the world; the New Zealand International Collection of Microorganisms from Plants (ICMP).

Machine learning methods would be used to select microbes that can efficiently transform particular biowaste – such as grape pomace and milk processing waste – into new products such as soil amendments and animal feed.

“We want to create economic and environmental value from bio-waste by ensuring that the nutrients it contains are harnessed to improve our soils and feed our animals rather than degrading our waterways and contaminating soils,” Robinson said.

The New Zealand milk processing industry produces nearly 800,000 tonnes of solid bio-waste and 190 billion liters of liquid effluent per year. Robinson said bioreactors at milk processing plants could turn this waste into valuable soil conditioner instead of disposing of it on nearby land.

Robinson estimates the potential economic benefit of research to be over $1.6 billion annually through reduced disposal costs, sales of new products, and reduced dependence on products. imports, such as phosphate fertilizer and palm kernel expeller (PKE), which is used as animal feed and costs about $300 million per year. It could also reduce penalties on greenhouse gas emissions by about $178 million a year.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Christian