Resource Efficient Innovations Database (REID)

Researchers turn food waste into bioplastics

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Researchers turn food waste into bioplastics
Food waste converted into succinic acid for use in plastics production
In Use – Funding has been applied for to conduct large scale trials are planned to take place in Germany to prove the concept. in the near future.

Product Waste Reduction, Other

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Supply Chain Phase


Researchers in Hong Kong have carried out trials to take food waste from a well known coffee shop chain for processing into succinic acid for use in plastics production.
The trial involved collecting food waste including: Coffee grounds, waste bakery products and other waste food items from Starbucks coffee shops.  The waste materials were then blended with a mixture of fungi which excrete enzymes to break down carbohydrates into simple sugars.  The simple sugars are then fermented in a vat where bacteria convert the sugars to produce succinic acid.
The research was carried out in 2011by researchers from the City University of Hong Kong in conjunction with representatives of a non profit organisation " The climate Group". Following the success of the laboratory scale trials there are plans to scale up the operation with the involvement of other companies who produce food waste.
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

Whilst this trial has been carried out on a relatively small scale to date the concept has been proven, opening the way for further large scale trials. Food waste in the supply chain is a significant issue and therefore any technology which can address the issue is important. Although the current trials focus on food service situations, this could be trnasferable to food waste in the retail supply chain.
However, a key issue with other similar initiatives such as ethanol production from biomass is to collect sufficiently large quantities of waste materials at cost effective prices in order to produce end products which are commercial viable. Therefore, scaling up the trials should determine the financial viability of this solution.

Intellectual Property

The trial was conducted by Carol Lin, Assistant professor of the School of Energy and Environment at the City University of Hing Kong.

Consultant View

This trial has proven the opportunity to use food waste arisings for conversion into succinic acid for reuse in plastics production.  Further large scale trials are now planned to determine the economic viability of the concept.
Reviewers of this technology may wish to interrogate the REID database to discover other examples of technology to convert food waste.

Contacts and Further Information

Carol Lin
Assistant Professor
School of energy and environment
City University Hong Kong
G5702, 5/F, Academic 1,
City University of Hong Kong,
Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR
+(852)-3442-2410 / 3442-2414

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