Resource Efficient Innovations Database (REID)

New technology could produce pectin from food process waste

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New technology could produce pectin from food process waste
A new microwave based technology could generate valuable food ingredients from manufacturing residues.
In Use – This is an ongoing research programme.

Product Waste Reduction, Resource efficiency (e.g. filling line efficiency)

Product Categories
Drinks, Food

Relevant Materials
Not Applicable

Relevant Packaging Formats
Not Applicable

Supply Chain Phase


A microwave-based technology is under development which could allow the generation of valuable food ingredients such as thickening and gelling agents from food and drink processing waste.

Initially working with orange peel, the researchers have found that modified microwave technology breaks down the peel into a wide range of useful products, including valuable ingredients used by the food industry, such as pectin, which can then be further refined. Pectin can be used for stabilising acidic protein drinks (such as drinking yoghurt) or as a fat substitute in baked goods.
The technology uses a large microwave oven to drive the chemicals out of the material being recycled. A unique feature of the system is that it works at low temperatures. Up to 200Celcius is hot enough to transform the waste a drive off the useful substances. A test system is under construction that will process 10kg of waste per hour, but the research team has also run a system that can handle up to 100kg per hour. It is envisaged that a scaled-up, fully commercial system could handle as much as 20 tonnes per hour.
Although the initial research work is focusing on orange peel, the research team has identified that other potentially valuable waste materials could also be broken down in a similar way, including wheat and barley cereal straws, cashew shells, pea pods, apple peel, rice husks and coffee grounds.
The content in this entry has been obtained from publicly available information sources only (e.g. press releases, website and trade press articles) and is subject to completion of a validation process with the technology supplier.

Potential Benefits

There are many potential environmental benefits from this project. Finding valuable outlets for food processing waste avoids waste disposal and avoids the need for production of virgin materials to provide the same function as these by-products. The potential scale of the benefit is clear from the test case being pursued with orange peel. In Brazil, the world’s largest producer of orange juice, half the fruit is left as waste once the juice has been extracted. This corresponds to 8 million tonnes of orange peel waste per annum which can be converted into valuable by-products. Similar scale opportunities exist in many other food supply chains.

Intellectual Property

The research work is led by Professor James Clark from the University of York. Professor Clark has established the Orange Peel Exploitation Company (OPEC) to progress the work.

Consultant View

This is one of a number of current research programmes seeking to divert food processing waste from less desirable waste management options, whilst also providing a new revenue stream for food manufacturers by turning this waste into a valuable raw material. Readers interested in the concept of exploiting supply chain residues should take a look at similar entries in the REID database. Try using filter and search term combinations such as “food and drink”, “research” and “waste” to identify other relevant entries.

Contacts and Further Information

Professor James Clark
University of York, Department of Chemistry
Tel: 01904 322559

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