Scoping out innovation opportunities from agri-food waste
Posted on 12/08/2016
KTN and Innovate UK hosted workshop on innovation opportunities from waste
In January 2016, KTN and Innovate UK hosted a workshop “Innovation Opportunities from Waste”.
The aim of this scoping workshop was to identify innovation challenges or opportunities related to the recovery of valuable materials and the potential value of repurposing waste arising from industrial activity in the UK.
The workshop explored potential opportunities for valorising waste from construction, agri-food, health, chemicals, materials and textiles in the UK. KTN colleagues from across food, agriculture, industrial biotechnology, chemicals and materials supported this event and facilitated discussions with participants.
Over 100 delegated attended the event representing UK businesses, Innovation Centres, business networks, R&D organisations and Universities, Research Councils, and WRAP.
Mapping waste streams
During the facilitated sessions delegates were mapping waste streams for their sector and looking at the opportunities to valorise it. In the sessions chaired by Simon Baty and Liliya Serazetdinova from the Agri-Food Team, the agricultural and food waste streams were discussed.
Examples of agricultural wastes that were perceived as potentially worth recovering include nitrogen and phosphorous run off, arable crop residues, forestry waste, residential green waste, lignin from paper production, potato starch, animal manures and slurries, whey from milk production, AD sludges, biogenic fraction of MSW, methane emissions from ruminant livestock, animal by products, animal bedding, poultry litter, surplus crop and vegetable production, vegetable peelings and vegetable rejects, in storage losses, seafood and fishery waste, agricultural packaging, and agricultural machinery waste oil.
Food processing wastes include animal greases and oils from food preparation, chemicals from food preparation, sludge from peeling, centrifuging and separation in vegetable food production, pastry, dough and biscuit trimmings, out of date supermarket food, food rejects, industrial waste oils, waste solvents, food contaminated packaging, and post-consumer food waste.
Delegates discussed each waste stream and main barriers for valorising it, including issues with collection and logistics, sorting and separation, reprocessing, and producing final products and marketing to the end users.
Reducing or removing barriers for valorisation of waste
It was apparent that there are some knowledge gaps related to characterisation of waste streams, and R&D is needed to develop new technologies that could reduce or remove the barriers for valorisation. More strategic thinking is required to map waste streams to new high value markets. Other barriers, such as legislation and regulation would require joint working of stakeholders and government departments. Classification of by-products as “waste” drives their use into energy, instead of higher value options. In other cases, bio-security risk prevents use of animal by-products and seafood waste. A clear need was identified for investment into the technologies to de-risk these waste stream and improve consumer acceptance. Other waste streams require technological innovation and new business models to improve collection and separation, and reduce costs to downstream supply chains. Other innovation opportunities discussed during the event include better product and process design and the development of new consumer markets.
From the discussions involving representatives from construction, agri-food, health, chemicals, materials and textiles, it was evident, that currently very few sectors look for cross-sector opportunities and prefer local, small solutions, however some of the challenges require a big and economically viable solution.
The information collected during the workshop will provide Innovate UK and KTN with robust evidence for any need to address barriers and stimulate opportunities for UK industry to maximise potential value recovery from waste generated. The results from the discussions will help to inform the scope for potential future Innovate UK competitions in key priority themes and provide input for any future bioeconomy strategy.