EU-funded project to explore generating sugars from waste

An EU-funded project will explore the commercial feasibility of generating waste sugars from household waste and using them to produce bio-based materials for a wide range of applications.

The VAMOS (Value Added Materials from Organics Waste Sugars) project has received €6,984,813 (£6,077,137) of funding from the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) – a €3.7-billion (£3.2-billion) public-private partnership working to develop a sustainable bioeconomy in Europe – under the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

The three-year project brings together a consortium of 11 businesses and organisations from six countries to produce second-generation sugars from paper and card-based materials from municipal solid waste (MSW) or materials rejected from recycling sorting processes.

Fibreright's paper pulp.
Fibreright's paper pulp.
The sugar produced from the waste will be used to produce a range of bio-based products for non-food applications in the construction, textile, furnishings and fast-moving consumer goods sectors, reducing reliance on primary agricultural materials such as sugar cane or sugar beet.

The project will seek to address issues associated with second-generation sugars, such as higher dilution and lower purity rates, in order to establish a sustainable alternative for one of the most essential inputs to industrial bioprocessing supply chains.

In addition, it is hoped that the project will see more waste diverted from landfill and reduce the amount of unrecyclable plastic entering the environment, as well as instigating a reduction in the high price of bio-based materials.

The consortium includes five UK-based companies – Fiberight Ltd, Oakdene Hollins Ltd, Aberystwyth University Royal Charter, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine and Knauf Insulation Ltd – along with German companies EW Biotech GmbH and Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, plus Celignis Ltd (Ireland), AEP Polymers SRL (Italy),  Transfercenter fur Kunststofftechnik GmbH (Austria) and Novozymes A/S (Denmark).

Nick Thompson, Managing Director of Fiberight Limited, said: “Securing this important EU funding enables us to take our promising pilot-scale work over the last five years to the next stage and demonstrate its commercial viability as an economically and environmentally sustainable process.”

Magnus Wiman, Head of Biomass Technology at Novozymes, added: “The project aims to deliver competitive, sustainable, affordable and high-performance bio-based materials from these low-value residual waste sugars. In doing so, the VAMOS project will revolutionise the sector by creating new cross-sector value chains.”

The project is due to run until August 2022, where consortium members expect to be able to demonstrate the potential for new markets for the new bio-based products.

The potential of the bioeconomy has become increasingly apparent, with a macro-economy study carried out in 2016 by the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC) finding that the bioeconomy in Europe has an annual turnover of €2.1 trillion (£1.8 trillion), with bio-based industries responsible for €600 billion (£522 billion) of that.

The UK Government has publicly shown its support for the bioeconomy, releasing its Bioeconomy Strategy at the end of 2018, promising to make the UK a world-leader by 2030.

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