What can I do with a food industry residue?


The food industry generates a large amount of waste. Food industry residue management of each waste is a major challenge, as it can have negative environmental impacts if not handled correctly.

In recent years, technological advances, the implementation of sustainable and efficient practices, as well as investment in research and development, have contributed significantly to increasing the productivity of industries, reducing the amount of industrial waste. In this way, the environmental impact is minimized and contributes to a more responsible approach to industrial production.

It is essential that this waste is managed appropriately. Currently, new industrial policies are promoted that encourage the reuse of the by-products generated.

What is a food industry residue?

According to the definition established in law 22/2011, 28th of July, about residues and polluted floors, an industrial residue is the residue that results from the processes related to the manufacturing, transformation, utilization, consumption, cleaning or maintenance. In other words, It is considered industrial residues all the resultant products from industrial activities that lack value or utility to be exploited.

The food industry has progressed a lot in the last decades as a consequence of the food science and technology advance. This industry is in charge of all the food chain processes: production, storage, transport and distribution. The raw materials used are from animal or vegetal origin and they are produced in Agricultural, livestock and fishing farms. This sector transforms the raw materials in foods for direct consumption or to provide to other food industries.

Residues quantity in the food industry

According to the food waste report in the industry and distribution in Spain in October of 2020, per each kg/L of finished product are produced 0,0022 kg/l of subproduct and 0,0004 kg/l of residue. These residues have great potential for use thanks its varied chemical composition and physics properties and must be seen as an opportunity and not as a problem. Value waste has a lot of positive consequences in the context of a circular economy since it reduces waste, the resources are used and recycled, and the use of raw materials is maximized.

Types of residues in the food industry

Food industry residues can be classified into four big groups according to their origin or impact on human health.

  • Biodegradable waste: These food or organic material remains that can be biodegraded and are generated during food production and manipulation.
  • Industrial waste: These are generated during the production process and expedition of the food and correspond to containers, packaging and plastics.
  • Dangerous residues: these are agents that are considered toxic, corrosive or flammable. They suppose a risk to the environment and for people´s health too. They are, for instance, cleaning products, pesticides and chemical products used in food processing and conservation.
  • SANDACH: These are the acronym for “Byproducts of Animal Origin Not Intended for Human Consumption”. For instance, oil used for frying or not eatable pieces such as bones or feathers.

Waste valorization from the food industry

Most residues from the food industry are characterized by being non-hazardous organic, such as remains of cereal, fruits, leaves, parts of meat and fish. These can be reappraised due to their high content of organic material. They can be processed and transformed into diverse useful products instead of simply undone. At ATRIA we have been working for years to maximize the value of waste. Some examples of the use of these residues are:

  • Extract valorization. A lot of agri-food waste has high added value and a lot of valuable compounds can be extracted. For example, citrus fruit peels or the by-products of the wine industry contain antioxidants and bioactive compounds beneficial to health. For instance, in ATRIA we have extracted limonene and pectin from orange pulp. The final result was a significant increase in the economic profitability for our client, thanks to the sale of a product with a high added value.

  • Biofuels. Food residues can be used as biofuel due to their high content of organic material. When food waste decomposes, methane is released which can be used as biofuel.

  • Animal feeding. Many food residues still contain valuable nutrients. These nutrients can be beneficial for feeding farm animals and livestock. Also, they can benefit animals’ health as well as the meat and milk quality that is obtained from them, since some of these residues contain bioactive compounds.

  • Compost. Manufacturing compost from food waste is an effective practice and sustainable which implies the controlled organic material decomposition, such as food remains, to produce a valuable organic fertilizer. In ATRIA we have produced compost from waste from winemaking in the frame of the DIGIWINE project. Giving a second life to residues the quantity of residues sent to landfills is reduced, sustainability is promoted and a valuable resource is provided in the form of organic fertilizer.

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