Consortium to harness value from agricultural waste

A new $10.9 million research consortium is set to increase the value of agricultural waste by turning it into new products, led by the University of Adelaide.

A total of 18 partners will come together to develop high-value products from agricultural waste, including nine South Australian based companies from the agriculture and food sector alongside nine national and international academic institutions and industry partners.

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The Agricultural Product Development Research Consortium has been granted $4 million over four years by the South Australian Government, with the University of Adelaide contributing $2.3 million, with the remaining support coming from partners.

Biomolecules that can be derived from crop waste show potential anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer or gut health properties. Other uses include providing mechanical strength or texturizing properties in food, structural materials, lubricants and cosmetics.

Waste from apples, cherries and mushrooms could be used in skin care products thanks to their biological makeup while waste from broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts or cabbage could have potential benefits for diabetic patients.

Research Consortium Lead Investigator and Director of Adelaide Glycomics Professor Vincent Bulone said Agriculture is a key contributor to SA’s economy which has a potential to generate high value products and create post-farm gate industries.

“Our agricultural and horticultural industries generate abundant waste biomass, which is currently disposed of at a cost to the producer, or only a low return. But there are compounds we can derive from this waste – a range of different ‘biomolecules’ – that have high-value potential applications for their structural or health properties,” he said.

Some consortium partners include CSIRO, University of South Australia, KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden), Coopers Brewery, Carlsberg Group (Denmark), Raw Nation Wholefoods, Vanquish Technologies and Ingredion Inc (USA).

SA Minister for Industry and Skills David Pisoni said South Australia’s agricultural sector is a significant contributor to the growth of the state’s economy.

“The outcomes from this major research consortia that includes local, national and international research institutions along with industry partners, will contribute to the creation of new post-farmgate industries through the development and commercialisation of value-added products from agricultural waste,” he said.

Australia could be the future of battery recycling – report

Australia could lead the world in lithium-ion battery recycling, according to a new report.

The ‘Lithium battery recycling in Australia’ report says a new battery recycling industry could be possible to reuse and recycle Australia’s annual 3300 tonnes of lithium-ion battery waste.

It looks at the growing demand for lithium-ion technology, which is currently being used in large amounts of electronics and household devices.

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The report says an effective recycling industry could also stabilise global lithium supplies to meet consumer demand.

The majority of Australia’s battery waste is shipped overseas, with the rest being sent to landfill, creating fire and environmental risks. It is a growing waste, increasing by 20 per cent each year and could exceed 100,000 tonnes by 2036.

Only 2 per cent of Australia’s lithium-ion battery waste is currently recycled, however 95 per cent of the components can be turned into new batteries or used in other industries.

In comparison, of the 150,000 tonnes of lead-acid batteries sold in 2010, 98 per cent were recycled.

CSIRO research is supporting recycling efforts, with research underway on processes for recovery of metals and materials, development of new battery materials, and support for the circular economy around battery reuse and recycling.

CSIRO battery research leader Anand Bhatt said Australia must responsibly manage its use of lithium-ion technology in support of a clean energy future.

“The value for Australia is three-fold. We can draw additional value from existing materials, minimise impact on our environment, and also catalyse a new industry in lithium-ion re-use/recycling,” Dr Bhatt said.

Dr Bhatt and his team are working with industry to develop processes that can support the transition to domestic recycling of lithium-ion batteries.

“The development of processes to effectively and efficiently recycle these batteries can generate a new industry in Australia. Further, effective recycling of lithium batteries can offset the current concerns around lithium security,” Dr Bhatt said.

Australian Battery Recycling Initiative CEO Libby Chaplin said the report came at a critical time.

“Currently we are racing towards a world where lithium batteries are a very big part of our energy supply, yet we have some real work to do to ensure we are able to recycle the end product once it has reached its use by date,” Ms Chaplin said.

“The CSIRO report provides critical information at an opportune time given the discussions around how to shape a product stewardship scheme for the energy storage sector.”

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Australian student’s prawn shell plastic goes global

An Australian student’s bioplastic innovation has gone global and will be representing Australia at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

Angelina Arora started investigating bioplastics when she 15 after she was inspired by being asked to pay for a plastic bag at a shop. It prompted her to think of a way people could still have the convenience of plastic without the harmful environmental effects.

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She will represent Australia alongside over 1,800 high school students from 75 countries, regions, and territories in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

After she became a finalist in the 2017 BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering awards for her research into the commercial viability of bioplastics, she began to work closely with a CSIRO mentor to develop a completely biodegradable plastic made from prawn shell and sticky protein from silkworm silk.

“I’m driven by wanting to help – whether it’s people, the environment or animals. It was amazing after months of research that I found a plastic that was suitable,” Ms Arora said.

“I was always a curious child asking why things work and this developed into a love of science. I believe science is the key to all the worlds’ mysteries.

“I couldn’t imagine a future where it isn’t part of my life. I think I’d like to go into medicine as it is all about helping people,” she said.

CSIRO Education and Outreach Director Mary Mulcahy said showcasing Australia’s brilliant science, technology, engineering and mathematics projects on the world stage was a key part in enabling Australia to adapt for a rapidly changing future.

“The world is changing faster than many of us can keep up with, but science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) can guide that future through innovation,” Ms Mulcahy said.

“These students are showing on a world stage that Australian students are prepared more than ever for the future.”

Pictured: Angelina Arora. Source: CSIRO