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The value of assessing multiple perspectives and transdisciplinary approaches in the transition to a bio-based economy: The prospect for transforming mixed food waste into bio-based chemicals
RISE Research Institutes of Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8826-6254
RISE Research Institutes of Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3833-4092
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2017 (English)In: Life Cycle Management Conference: Designing Sustainable Technologies, Products and Policies / [ed] Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), Luxemburg: Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) , 2017, Vol. 8thConference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In line with current political and industrial ambitions for a transition into a bio-based economy, food waste can be an alternative to agro- and forest-based resources. The amount of food waste generated every year is about 1.3 billion tons globally. The vast amounts cause problems related to climate change and resource depletion, as well as economic challenges related to waste disposal. 

These problems could be solved by transforming food waste into valuable products like bio-based chemicals. Succinic acid (SA) is one such chemical with high market potential in its bio-based version. It is already produced commercially based on cultivated biomass. Several initiatives also exist to examine the use of food waste as feedstock for SA production. Most of these initiatives are limited to homogenous industrial waste streams, but a research project in Sweden is looking also at mixed food waste (MFW) as an alternative feedstock.

The purpose of this project is to evaluate the prospect for transforming mixed food waste into bio-based chemicals, such as SA. As the prospect depends on many factors, the examination is addressed with multiple perspectives: Technical and social system structures are explored, in addition to resource- and environmental implications. Several methods are thus involved in the different types of evaluations, such as the technical evaluation (including laboratory cultivation tests, and mechanical property testing), the social evaluation (including actors analysis, policy analysis, market analysis, and societal acceptance), the resources evaluation (including waste flow analysis and material flow analysis), and the environmental evaluation (including life cycle assessment of current and future valorization techniques for mixed food waste).

The project uses a transdisciplinary approach and offers as such an arena where both research partners and industrial partners meet and discuss possible options for MFW-based SA production in Sweden. Here we present the results of one possible production route, where microbial production of SA from MFW in Sweden is used as a case study.

Results of the case study show that even though, from a technical and resource system perspective, production seems possible, from a social system perspective it lacks institutional support and actor commitment and alignment for realizing development in Sweden. From an environmental and life cycle perspective, the framing of the question is decisive for the results: SA production from MFW is environmentally beneficial if compared with the SA production from corn, but from a pure waste handling perspective, it is environmentally better to produce biogas than SA from MFW.

The findings thus indicate that different perspectives and different methods contribute with a useful holistic perspective to the evaluation. The case study is not providing a definite answer on whether the prospects for transforming MFW into bio-based chemicals are favorable or not, but gives a nuanced evaluation that offers a more firm foundation for decision than one perspective or method in isolation. The transdisciplinary approach can inform an arena of research and industrial partners with different perspectives to facilitate discussion and more well-informed decisions. 

The case clearly illustrates that an efficient and sustainable transition to a bio-based economy is supported  by assessing multiple perspectives and applying a transdisciplinary approach.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Luxemburg: Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) , 2017. Vol. 8th
Series
Life Cycle Management Conference ; 8th
Keywords [en]
multiple perspectives, transdisciplinary, bio-based economy, food waste, chemicals
National Category
Other Natural Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ri:diva-56792OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ri-56792DiVA, id: diva2:1608558
Conference
Life Cycle Management Conference
Available from: 2021-11-03 Created: 2021-11-03 Last updated: 2023-05-22Bibliographically approved

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Brunklaus, BirgitBerlin, JohannaRex, EmmaUlmanen, Johanna

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