Squeezing value from orange peel waste

Researchers in Spain are leading a project to transform huge volumes of orange peel waste left by the country’s citrus juice industry into blow moulded bioplastic juice bottles and extruded profiles.

Staff at Spain’s plastics technology institute AIMPLAS have joined forces with academics and industry to extract from the citrus waste material different monomers by microbial fermentation and bio-polyester synthesis.

The joint MIPLASCOE project, backed by the Spanish government, will utilise much of the 1.2m tpa of citrus industry residues with the help of participating juice producing, bioscience, industrial research and plastics companies.

The ultimate aim is to create value added products from the waste which currently undergoes energy intensive processing into animal feed pellets or is consigned to landfill.

Today, Spain is the EU’s leading producer of orange and other fruit juices with its south-eastern Valencia region alone processing 3 million tpa of citrus fruit, the equivalent of 60% of total national output. AIMPLAS is Valencia-based.

Apart from Valencia, the country’s southern region of Andalusia is also a significant player in the juice sector. Citrus fruit has become its third most important agricultural business with a dedicated area of 62,000ha - expanding by more than 70% over recent years.

MIPLASCOE partners include Madrid-based wine and juice specialist J. Garcia Carrion; bioscience firm Agrocode in Almería; research laboratory Canagrosa and civil and rail engineering company Azvi Group, both of Seville.

Also on board are researchers from the University of Seville and the Polytechnic University of Valencia.

Two plastics processors involved are PET bottle moulder Plastipak Iberia of Toledo and profile extruder Lisanplast, based in Murcia.

The partnership expects to complete its work by December 2018 with a number of end products developed, including injection blow moulded plastic bottles for the citrus juice industry and extruded profiles for use in the railway sector.