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Huge potential of food waste to support circular economies

Food waste shows huge potential to replace energy crops
"An evaluation based on technological and economic aspects points towards the feasibility of substituting energy crops with food waste for producing biogas and reducing total biomass costs"

A new review paper by Hutton PhD student Camilla Negri, working alongside colleagues in Italy and China, shows that food waste has significant potential to replace crops in the production of energy and fertilisers through anaerobic digestion.

The findings could have major repercussions for the establishment of ‘circular economies’: economic systems aimed at the continuous use of resources and elimination of waste.

The research examined the rising production of food waste in China and South East Asia, a trend in line with population and economic growth. It is estimated that food waste production in the region will increase by 278 to 416 million tonnes, with a high content of biodegradable material including carbohydrates, protein and lipids.

“This composition led to consistent biogas production, in higher levels than those reported for energy crops, which makes food waste a good candidate to substitute energy crops, thereby avoiding food-energy conflicts,” Camilla said.

Pre-treating food waste appears to be very useful in increasing total biogas production, with physical and thermal treatments showing the most positive results by increasing biogas production by 40% and 30%, respectively.

“An evaluation based on technological and economic aspects points towards the feasibility of substituting energy crops with food waste for producing biogas and reducing total biomass costs. To achieve this, separate collection sources need to be put into place, assuring high food waste quality to promote a circular economy approach in food waste management,” Camilla added.

Professor Derek Stewart, agri-food business sector lead at the James Hutton Institute, commented: “Scotland is a leader in terms of advancing the circular economy with dedicated policy and legislative activities and leadership via Zero Waste Scotland.

“These results identify significant opportunities in the UK to add value to food waste through conversion to fuel all whilst helping to achieve net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.

“Importantly, these findings also reveal economic opportunities for preparing these feedstocks for anaerobic digestion.”

Paper: Camilla Negri, Marina Ricci, Massimo Zilio, Giuliana D'Imporzano, Wei Qiao, Renjie Dong, Fabrizio Adani: Anaerobic digestion of food waste for bio-energy production in China and Southeast Asia: A review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 133, November 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2020.110138

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, James Hutton Institute, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/huge-potential-food-waste-support-circular-economies on 30/09/20 04:49:31 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.