Future trends

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Companies will continue to examine ways to minimise waste, use less packaging, utilise reusable and recyclable packaging, and use more biodegradable packing products. Waste-reducing technology will continue to be created; for example, improved sensors and process control technology will be developed to manage specific portions of the manufacturing process to reduce wastes and increase productivity.

There is a drive to take organic waste out of landfill, which means that food processing operations will have to shift to using more sustainable alternatives. The emerging trend is for source separation systems to aim to minimise the biodegradable fraction of the waste stream. In addition, organic wastes are finding ever-increasing markets for resale. Most food wastes can be processed into valuable by-products and then resold as fertilizer, animal feed, and by-products for human consumption.

A growing trend is the principle of zero emissions, which relies on a network of companies utilizing one company's waste streams as another company's raw materials. Another trend is the development of new methods to add value to food by-products. For example, a consortium of food research organisations from the European Union and select other countries that have experience in adding value to food processing co-products has formed a group called REPRO. With funding from the European Commission, they are working to transform vegetable trimmings and cereal co-products (such as brewer's spent grain) into high- and medium-added-value food, feed and related ingredients such as biopolymers, phytochemicals, nutrients, and micronutrients. Their work will have significant impact, as approximately 1 million tonnes of vegetable trimmings from the vegetable processing industry and 3.4 million tonnes of spent grain from the brewing industry are generated in the European Union annually. The team is developing innovative hybrid systems (such as bioprocesses plus advanced separation/extraction technologies) to deconstruct co-products into marketable product streams; precision enzyme-based bioprocesses to deconstruct and tailor co-products components; and integrated procedures for ensuring microbiological safety, stability, and traceability of co-products. The project also involves developing strategies to minimise the market risk of the new processes. They will ensure acceptance by consumers and retailers by conducting risk assessments of the technological feasibility, economic viability, environmental safety, and compliance with legislation.

Finally, current and upcoming legislation will continue to drive the food processing industry closer to sustainable practices of waste reduction and recycling.

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