With the world re-evaluating its energy policies with regards to climate change, South Africa has turned its attention to various alternative solutions in terms of renewable energy and the conversion of waste to more valuable products. One such product is fruit.
The country produces millions of tonnes of fruit annually and, during the processing of fruit, thousands of tonnes of solid and liquid waste are produced. A few uses of fruit waste have been explored in the country including accessing dietary nutrients and antioxidants, amongst others.
Traditionally, solid pulp and fruit waste is sent to landfill or used for animal feed. The liquid waste is also disposed of, and due to the acidity of most fruits, the liquids can affect water systems and aquatic animals. However, both forms of fruit waste have economic potential that a few local companies have started to access.
Fruit waste can be used for bio-energy
There is a vast amount of untapped potential of fruit waste that can be exploited and turned into bio-energy. An example of this is the generation of biogas and bioethanol from wastewater.
Fruit waste can also be used as a source of flavour or aroma compounds. The pulp and fibre can also be used in the production of composite materials, bricks, textiles and paper. Fruit waste can be used to create natural, organic substrate for the agriculture industry – particularly for growing edible mushrooms.
Examples of using fruit waste for economic benefit
At Elgin Fruit Juices, the fruit waste is turned into energy by using an anaerobic digester. The digester processes waste fruit from normal factory operation and produces biogas, which is rich in methane. The biogas is then used to generate electricity for use in the plant.
Another success story in South Africa is that of Brenn-O-Kem, which specializes in transforming winery waste such as skins, seeds and lees into value-added natural products. These byproducts, such as grape seed oil and wine spirits, are used in the wine industry, pharmaceutical industry and other markets – including international industries in Europe, Asia, America and Australia.
Fruit waste is one of the main sources of municipal waste in South Africa. Through its fruit industry and the continued exploration of the potential of fruit waste as natural resources of bioactive compounds, the country has major potential in the development of a true and sustainable bio-economy.
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