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Tutkimus ja kehitys

From side streams to money streams

There is a lot of value in the waste that usually goes to compost. An opportunity for new business models lies in industrial side streams.

Luonnon materiaalit -kollaasi

Our society is increasingly moving from fossil raw materials to bio-based raw materials, but also their careless use can cause material availability problems and changes in ecosystems. The food industry itself is based on the use of high-quality bio-based raw materials, but both positive environmental effects and for economic benefit, all usable ingredients should be separated from their side streams and wastes.

Separated, valuable ingredients can still be used in several high-value products, such as cosmetics or nutritional supplements. Only after using them should the final waste be disposed of by composting or burning.

Gold from boiled barley

In the brewing and distilling industry, the main raw material is malted high-quality barley. At the beginning of the process, malt is dissolved in hot water. The starch contained in the barley dissolves and what remains is the brewers’ spent grain, which is considered as waste. In some cases, the BSG is added to cattle feed, but usually, it ends up directly in the compost.

– It is important for our company to find new uses for BSG and for other side streams as well, because it can improve business profitability. Environmental values ​​are also important to us, and raw materials’ versatile utilization reduces the lifetime environmental effects of the operation, says Samuli Taponen from Valamo Winery and Distillery Ltd.

Brewers spent grain contains, among other things, food-grade proteins, antioxidants and hemicellulose. Idea Nature Ltd.’s natural cosmetics formulation expert Heli Pirinen points out that when these substances are separated from each other, they are desired ingredients in many natural cosmetics products.

I tried a few recipes, where I used ingredients extracted from BSG at Centria University of Applied Sciences and they turned out to be a good alternative.

Heli Pirinen from Idea Nature Ltd.

–I will use the basic information I received from Centria about the production of these substances in the next phase of my own company, where I thought about extracting the substances myself. In addition to cosmetics, they can be used in food supplements, Pirinen continues.

Valuables separated from biomass with chemistry

For a long time, Centria’s chemistry and bioeconomics team has developed methods for recovering valuable substances from natural materials such as berries, plants, wood and BSG.

Laboratory scale experiments can also be transferred to larger equipment – ​​up to a 200-litre reactor size. Extensive analytical equipment is used to determine the quality of substances. The professionals in Centria are openly sharing their know-how and research results with companies and thus helping companies to develop and optimize industrial-scale processes. It is also important that Centria is able to produce the first batches of raw materials for application trials.

– It can be challenging for a small company to start developing new extraction methods, as they require special know-how and equipment. Centria has the necessary know-how and desire to be a company partner. With active national and international project activity comes to also become familiar with other skills in the field, which can be used if necessary in the concrete case of the company, says Centria’s R&D coordinator Egidija Rainosalo.

The illustration of the pilot case of utilising BSG in cosmetics


Egidija Rainosalo