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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
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Food Waste Inspires Visionary Kitchen, New Packaging; Human Waste Inspires …Beer?

Action on food waste continues to result in innovative new materials and delightful culinary experiences. In this week’s round-up: a chemical firm has developed new packaging solutions to reduce food waste; a UK supermarket chain launched a new range with packaging made with waste peas and pulses;and a volunteer organization is hosting free dinners made with foods that have reached their sell-by date. Meanwhile, Belgian scientists are looking to use human waste “From Sewer to Brewer,” as a raw material for making beer.

Sabic, a Saudi Arabia-based chemical firm, will be showcasing its latest packaging solutions at the K 2016 plastics trade show in Düsseldorf, Germany this October. Specifically targeting food waste concerns, the firm is using its multilayer and polymer blend technologies to help manufacturers reduce losses during transport, optimize the protection of goods and increase pallet stability by maximizing the holding force and strength of its collation shrink and stretch films for food packaging.

What’s more, the films can be up to 20 percent thinner, allowing for both reduced plastic consumption and weight, as well as higher processing speeds. Sabic says that its PE/PP resins are vital in building advanced, multilayer barrier film concepts that provide longer shelf life of fresh and chilled food, cheese and meat, with “significant positive impact” on the life-cycle analysis of a flexible packaging system. It is also producing safer and cleaner resins for use in PET and food packaging, 5-layer barrier films for use in meat packaging, and PP copolymer cast films with enhanced puncture and tear resistance that comply with food regulations.


UK supermarket Waitrose has fashioned a new packaging of its own. Two new ranges of gluten-free fusilli pastas went on sale Monday with packaging made from 15 percent waste peas and pulses that didn’t meet quality standards during the pasta production process. The new packaging produces 20 percent fewer emissions, does not require a plastic sleeve within the pack, reduces the use of virgin tree pulp, and is 100 percent recyclable.

“Pasta is such a staple product for many families, so it’s exciting to be offering our customers a pasta with a twist, both nutritionally and environmentally. We’re always looking at ways to cut down on our packaging, use more sustainable materials and reduce our food waste, so we’re pleased to be working towards all three of these targets with this new launch,” said Waitrose’s pasta buyer Jo Heywood.

Last year, Waitrose experimented with egg boxes made from ryegrass and paper, and says the egg packaging saves 77 tonnes of wood and recycled paper each year used for its Duchy Organic Range eggs alone. The egg boxes also require 60 percent less water in production and are 100 percent recyclable.


Shortly after moving to Denmark, Jan Martin Ahlers was on his was to buy a loaf of bread when he passed an open container with discarded loaves of bread inside. Upon closer inspection, the bread seemed perfectly fine, so he helped himself. He later helped himself to vegetables, but soon, supermarkets began locking their containers.

“We obviously still need food, and the food was the remains thrown out, so we got in touch with the supermarkets and asked if we had to decrease their surplus food – two of them said yes immediately,” Ahlers told Design Indaba.

It wasn’t long before a third grocer contacted him, as well, and Ahlers and his partner, Kristin Nurk, were receiving too much food and began regularly hosting dinner parties with their friends, and the idea for the Visionary Kitchen was born. Visionary Kitchen now hosts weekly two- or three-course meals made from surplus food that has reached its sell-by date, provided by supermarkets Lovbjerg, Spar and SuperBrugsen in Stensballe. The menu is ever-changing, created from what ever food happens to be available, but the food is always healthy and nutritious. The dinners are free and open to everyone, with up to 10 guests at each event. They have proved so popular that Ahlers and Nurk have had to implement a rule that each guest may only attend one dinner per month, and most nights are still booked out.

Guests are taught about food waste, but the events are about more than the food – people of all backgrounds and economic classes gather around the table, which the founders hope can lead to community-building and improving social issues. They also hope to recreate the effect both elsewhere in Denmark and in other European countries, with plans to unroll similar programs in Germany and Scandinavia.


Meanwhile, scientists at the University of Ghent in Belgium have created a machine that produces clean water and fertilizer from urine, and have partnered with a local brewer to make beer from that water. The team aims to use large versions of the machine in sports venues or airports, but also take it to rural communities in the developing world where both fertilizers and reliable drinking water are in short supply – even if electricity isn’t readily available.

The system treats wastewater through an energy-efficient process that uses a special membrane. Urine is collected in a tank and heated in a solar-powered boiler. As the water evaporates, it passes through the membrane where the water is recovered and nutrients such as potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus are separated.

The team recently tested the machine at a 10-day music and theater festival in central Ghent, recovering 1,000 liters of water from the urine of attendees. They used it to make a lager, aptly-named “From Sewer to Brewer.”

“We can make the best beer in the world starting from urine,” said the brewer, Denis De Wilde.

“It’s a good illustration of the water cycle,” he added.

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