The Project

Introductory video

Figures

  • 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year
  • Organic waste in landfills creates 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 per year and 100 million tonnes of methane
  • Traditional plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade
  • 91% of the plastic is lost, incinerated or dispersed in the environment
  • About 8 million tons of plastic waste reach the oceans every year where fragments into microplastic.
  • Microplastic is ingested, incorporated, and accumulated in the bodies and tissues of many organisms.

Objective

The REDI Project aims to produce chitin from insects growing in organic waste.

Chitin is a structural polymer of the insect’s exoskeleton and the precursor of compostable bioplastic.

This idea targets three major environmental problems: the replacement of traditional plastic with sustainable materials, the reduction of GHG emissions from organic waste in landfills, and the reduction of carbon footprint throughout the entire plastic manufacturing process.

Innovation

The first unique feature of our project is the use of organic waste as a feedstock, well embracing the concept of the circular economy.

The second unique element is that we will obtain the chitin from insects using a new biotechnological approach to set up a biorefinery where the Black Soldier Fly will reduce the organic waste into biomass.

The third innovative aspect is represented by our concept according to which it is vital to promote new materials, not only compostable and recyclable but also integrable into the existing ecological food chains.

The fourth innovation is in the context of novel farming as our project is a new way to produce new plastic biopolymers by novel farming systems in a more sustainable way, using fewer natural resources.

Methods

In practical terms, we will use a new biotechnological approach to set up a biorefinery where insects transform organic waste into biomass. The REDI project is conceived to obtain large amounts of chitin that will be directed to the production of compostable bioplastic. In fact:

  • The amount of chitin in insects is much higher than in other organisms.
  • The production system is highly scalable as it depends on the unlimited availability of organic waste.
  • Chitin extraction from insect is easier than from other sources
  • The quality of chitin derived from insects is higher.
  • The REDI project proposes a low-cost production system.

Feasibility

  • Verify the quality of the chitin derived from the Black Soldier Fly.
  • Verify the cost of production of the chitin derived from theBlack Soldier Fly.
  • Verify the system scalability so that outputs suit the industrial demand.

Location

The project is being carried out at the Rothamsted Research (Harpenden, UK) for the biology activities, and at the University of Hertfordshire (Hatfield, UK) for the chemistry work.

References