BBEPP is one of the largest European pilot plants for the bioeconomy, situated at North Sea Port Ghent, a world-class seaport located in Flanders. Working together with about ten companies, the factory aims to convert filtered food waste into raw materials for the bio-industry: namely, lactic acid and biosurfactants, two important ingredients in bioplastics, soaps and cosmetics. Among the other collaborators on the project is Ecover, SC Johnson’s pioneer in the production of organic detergents.
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BBEPP turns waste into bio-resources in Flanders
Food waste contains all the necessary sugars that form the raw material for the bio industry. “The waste is first treated with enzymes, followed by a fermentation process in which we often use genetically modified microorganisms. After the final purification, a refined product remains,” says Sofie Lodens, project manager at BBEPP.
For the logistical part of the project, the company is planning to develop a registration system where food companies, auction houses and large agricultural companies can register their waste. BBEPP is currently looking at how best to organize these smaller waste collections, alongside Group Op de Beeck, a Flanders-based supplier of fertilizers with tons of experience in the processing of large batches of biological waste.
According to preliminary estimates, this treatment process can increase the value of food waste by a factor of anywhere from 2 to 10, while producing CO₂ emissions that are a fifth lower than those from current processing methods. Sophie Roelants, innovation manager at BBEP: "Part of the extra value should return to the waste providers, to encourage them to make it available to us. That way, the system can boost uncertain returns in the agricultural sector."
With this project, we want to demonstrate that a lot of added value can be extracted from waste.
Launched in 2009, BBEPP currently employs some 150 people. More than 300 projects have already been carried out at the plant. Most of the work is commissioned by companies, but a third of the projects are public commissions involving several partners. Partly thanks to European support, the Waste2Func project has a budget of EUR 14 million.