NI project to recycle plastic from food waste feedstock wins funding

A research project focused on removing plastic contamination from food waste destined for anaerobic digestion (AD) has received funding from Ecosurety.

Ecosurety is a producer responsibility compliance scheme for packaging, waste from electrical and electronic equipment, and batteries.

Offering a total of £1 million (€1.18 million) since its launch in 2019, the second and final round of the Ecosurety Exploration Fund kicked off with a call for entries in June last year. It is the only such funding opportunity to be provided by a UK compliance scheme and builds on the organisation’s established experience in supporting innovative projects and new technologies across the waste and recycling sector.

The three companies chosen by the Ecosurety fund tackle a diverse range of issues, including reducing avoidable packaging waste in construction, preventing landfilling of food-contaminated plastic packaging, and enabling access to electrical repair and reuse for rural communities.

Large quantities of packaged food waste are used as feedstock for renewable energy production via AD. The packaging is separated from the food waste during processing but ends up heavily contaminated with residues. Re:Solve believes there is potential to optimise this process by cleaning the packaging, making it attractive to recycle, with the additional benefit of capturing the residual food waste, enhancing renewable energy production.

South West College in Northern Ireland is leading research into a novel process to efficiently remove the food waste from plastic packaging without using large quantities of water. Once separated, the aim is for both the food and plastic to be effectively treated and recycled. The funding will enable researchers to achieve proof of concept with a prototype plant that will enable the process to be scaled up commercially.

“This exciting new project is one that South West College is truly passionate about, with our record in sustainability projects and our plastic recycling knowledge,” said Ashlene Vennard, Renewable Engine postdoctoral researcher at South West College.

“Not only do we hope to solve the packaging and food waste problem to aid local industry, but we hope to provide a solution for any AD plants that deal with food waste feedstock.

“We are really looking forward to working with our partners at Ulster University and Granville Eco Park, combining our resources to prevent these waste streams going to landfill.”

A high-profile panel of 10 independent experts from business and non-governmental organisations, including representatives of WWF UK, University College London, On-Pack Recycling Label, Suntory Beverage & Food Europe and GB&I.

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