Each year in Europe, the food industry discards millions of tonnes of vegetable residue and legumes. However, scientists in Italy are using these leftovers to make an innovative and ecological material named ‘bioplastics’.
Manufacturers tend to get rid of non-marketable by-products of legumes such as peas, beans and other lentils, despite the fact that they’re rich in proteins and fibres and still have nutritional value.
A method has been developed to transform these by-products into bio-plastics, within the framework of a European research project. After washing the by-products, the vegetal waste is ground and then mixed with a special solution.
According to chemist Eleonora Umiltà, at the Experimental Station for the Food Preserving Industry SSICA; “The proteins are made soluble in a buffer solution. Then there is a separation phase between the liquid part and the solid, fibrous fraction.”
The fibres can subsequently be used make composite materials, while the proteins will act as the basic ingredient of a future bioplastic.