Investigating the chemical properties of waste for potential commercial applications

IntelliDigest worked with specialists from Heriot Watt University to develop a new platform for food waste recycling in this IBioIC funded project.

The Scottish Government has set a target of 2021 to ban food waste to landfills to tackle food waste and land use issues. To help meet this target, IntelliDigest has developed an automated bioreactor to break down food into a rich mixture of organic chemicals, which could be recycled to make useful products and stop this waste ending up in landfills.
IntelliDigest collaborated with Alastair Lyndon and Valeria Arrighi, at Heriot-Watt University, to chemically characterise the outputs from the digestion process, and identify the processes required to convert these chemicals into useful biodegradable products.

Chemical analysis of the fermentation broths

Dr Ifeyinwa Kanu and Dr Alastair Lyndon were able to prepare samples for testing using centrifugation and filtration methods. Dr Valeria Arrighi and her research assistant then analysed the supernatant, distillate and filtrate samples using a mixture of NMR, IR, HPLC and GC-MS, in which they identified an abundance of lactate as a suitable candidate for the polymerisation process. Other products from the process include polysaccharides, Amino acids (Arginine and Alanine) and Fatty acids (Methyl palmitoleate, Methyl Stearate and Methyl Oleate).

A tilt-shift for IntelliDigest

It was determined that the number of steps required for downstream processing was beyond IntelliDigest’s vision for completing all of the steps in-situ and therefore, they would need to rethink how these useful chemicals could be recycled and utilised.

A new platform for food waste recycling

IntelliDigest are now focussing their efforts on creating the online trading platform (SusChem Trade) to engage with businesses and allow them to purchase the chemical rich slurries for utilisation within their own robust manufacturing processes. By giving companies access to these chemical rich mixtures, IntelliDigest are hoping to have a positive impact on the circular bioeconomy and reduce food and plastic waste within the UK.

"Engaging on the IBioIC Feasibility study with Heriot Watt University has been immensely helpful in discovering the great potential in the output from our novel automated bio-upcycler which has enabled us to take the bold step of empowering more businesses to becoming more circular and resource efficient".