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EU eco-projects bid to boost refrigeration energy efficiency and craft bioplastics from olive waste

By Rory Harrington , 25-Jun-2012

The European Union is funding a raft of projects aimed at boosting energy and resource efficiency in the food and drinks sectors as it seeks to make good on its pledge to promote sustainability in industry.

Enhancing refrigeration energy efficiency throughout the food supply chain and transforming waste from a raft of processing applications into bio-based plastics are just some of the eco-projects Brussels is supporting with cash totalling millions of Euros.

COOL-SAVE

The body has revealed it is backing a cross-regional initiative called COOL-SAVE to slash energy consumption in refrigeration technology in food and beverage processing.

Typical vapour compression systems used in industrial refrigeration are often not operating in the conditions they were designed for and therefore not running at maximum efficiency, said coordinators Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE).

The 30-month project will therefore seek to develop cost effect strategies for food and drink cooling systems to cut energy consumption by as much as 15% across 25 nations.

To achieve this, comprehensive analyses of refrigeration facilities of selected food producers have been used to collect current data – which in turn serves as a basis for exemplary and realistically designed measures for improving the efficiency of refrigeration plants, said Germany-based giant GEA, which has already agreed to take part in the scheme.

The processing technology firm is one of nine companies from six European-Union countries involved.

“The purpose here is not only to promote technical developments, but also to overcome financial, cultural, and legal barriers to energy savings,” it added.

Partners plan to publish guidance applicable for all the European climate regions and available to leaders in around 2,000 food companies. The findings will also be spread through trade associations.

Bioplastics from olive oil processing waste

Last week, FoodProductionDaily.com reported that the EU was backing a programme to that would extract organic effluent in wastewater from fruit processing to make packaging for juice produced by the products.

Recognising the huge potential to boost resource efficiency from waste reclamation, it has also launched a scheme this month to develop novel polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHB) bioplastics from olive mill wastewaters (OMWW).

The three-year Oli-PHA project, co-ordinated by Spanish research body IRIS, includes representatives from the olive processing, plastics, packaging, food, engineering and environmental sectors from Europe and Latin America.

The project is based on ‘MaxiUse -  a holistic integrated environmental approach to increase the sustainability of materials and processes throughout their life cycle.

By tapping into the more than 30bn litres of  OMWW generated annually as a culture medium for the growth of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), the project experts hope to address challenges related to its treatment and disposal – boosting sustainability and providing a new income stream for industry players.

It will also bid to create cost-effective and fit-for-purpose biodegradable packaging that contain polyphenols and other compounds to extend the shelf life of the packaged goods.

The consortium is composed of 10 industry partners (SMEs) and three research institutes from 5 European Member States and 3 Latin American countries.

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