In order to meet the growing global demand on proteins and bioactive compounds Pro-Enrich is developing an integrated sustainable biorefinery approach capable of processing a range of agricultural residues for the delivery of high value protein and bioactive product streams, suited to the needs of a wide range of high value end uses. The consortium coordinated by the Danish Technologist Institute with the involved industries sees a huge potential and a strong need for developing more cost and energy efficient biorefining technologies and processing methods. These technologies must achieve purity levels that meet market specifications and regulations. Pro-Enrich will address these challenges by producing a range of proteins and bioactive compounds suitable for applications in food, pet food, adhesives and cosmetics. Specifically, Pro-Enrich is defining, developing and testing new and sustainable optimized technologies for pre-treatment, extraction, separation and the purification of target compounds including functional proteins, polyphenols, dietary fibers and pigments meeting the market expectations from side streams in the processing of rapeseed, olives, citrus and tomatoes. However, on the European regulatory point of view, the market uptake of biobased material made of organic waste can face many challenges:
- Competition with the bioenergy: The Renewable Energy Directive (RED) aims at supporting the bioenergy sector and harms the development of the biomaterials inadvertently. Indeed, there is a price inflation of organic waste due to the subvention of the bioenergy sector by the RED: producer of organic waste tends to foster their use for bioenergy production rather than for biobased materials manufacturing. It results in a barrier for the valorization of biowaste into bioproducts.
- Lack of long-term policy: The biobased industry has currently few policy instruments and consequently no supporting long-term policy goals in place. Biobased products have a potential positive impact on environment and could therefore participate in the mitigation of climate change and other environmental impacts. Nevertheless, the potential environmental advantages of biobased products might not be a source of financial advantage for the buyer or the producer.
- Priority to other valorization pathways: The Waste Framework Directive (WFD) provides guidance on how the waste should be treated according to a specific hierarchy: 1) Prevention, 2) Reuse, 3) Recycling, 4) Other recovery, such as incineration and 5) Disposal. The feedstocks evaluated in this project are currently principally used as direct animal feed, which is preferred rather than recycling.
- Unsuitableness of standards: Actual European standards are most of the time compliant with the requirements laid down by the performance of traditional products and not with the specific requirements of the application. They are also not always in line with field reality because they were designed initially for other types of products or processes. It can lead to incorrect statements or missing standards in general.
- Multitude of certification schemes: There are plenty of possibilities of assessing and labelling either the sustainability of the biomass, the biobased content of the final product, the end-of-life etc. Unfortunately, the multitude of certification schemes for biobased products have the paradox of needing detailed information on one hand and desiring to get simple messages on the other hand.
Despite these limits, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that global demand for proteins and bioactive compounds by 2030 will exceed current production capacities. A greater use of residual biomass to produce proteins and other food ingredients, as defined in Pro-Enrich objectives, is seen as a possible solution.
“This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No 792050”