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Food supply chain waste 'offers new source' for chemicals and materials

Posted on 20 July 2012

Scientists at the Department of Chemistry are leading a major new EU-backed network that is exploring ways of using waste as an alternative carbon source, employing green and sustainable chemical technologies.

York’s Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, which launched the Biowaste Industrial Symbiosis Network at a Technology Fair in Santa Clara, California, has won a European Co-operation in Science and Technology (COST) grant to run the network.

The EU support we are receiving is an acknowledgement that food supply chain waste is an important area of scientific study that has potential to change significantly the way we live

Professor James Clark

The network which is being coordinated by PhD student Lucie Pfaltzgraff, involves engineers, chemists, biotechnologists and food technologists from academia and industry working on novel strategies to use food waste to provide new, sustainable, functional feedstocks.

It aims to develop the valorisation of food supply chain waste as an alternative carbon source for bio-chemicals, bio-materials and bio-fuels by forging links between technology hubs across the world, overcoming technological barriers and reaching beyond first generation organic waste reuse and recycling such as composting and anaerobic digestion. It also seeks to bridge gaps between academic disciplines as well as between academia and industry.

The network is already studying the potential of reuse of citrus residue and coffee waste as well as pea pods and cashew shells. 

Professor James Clark, the Director of the University of York’s Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, said: “We want to bring about a critical mass of researchers and stakeholders to harness the potential of food supply chain waste as an alternative carbon source to produce commercially viable chemical commodities. 

“As well as harnessing skills and expertise that cross scientific borders, covering biology, chemistry, biotechnology and food science and technology, the network will include experts in environmental and economic assessment. The EU support we are receiving is an acknowledgement that food supply chain waste is an important area of scientific study that has potential to change significantly the way we live.”

Its membership already includes industrial concerns and academic institutions from China, UK, Spain, France, Greece, Finland, Cyprus, Vietnam, Italy, Germany and Brazil. But the BIS network is seeking new members from academia, industry, government, NGOs and other organisations with varied scientific backgrounds in any country, who share a common interest in food supply chain valorisation.