Abstract:This paper, for the first time, reports integrated conceptual MBCT/biorefinery systems for unlocking the value of organics in municipal solid waste (MSW) through the production of levulinic acid (LA by 5wt%) that increases the economic margin by 110-
Biorefineries have been established since the 1980s for biofuel production, and there has been a switch lately from first to second generation feedstocks in order to avoid the food versus fuel dilemma. To a lesser extent, many opportunities have been investigated for producing chemicals from biomass using by-products of the present biorefineries, simple waste streams. Current facilities apply intensive pre-treatments to deal with single substrate types such as carbohydrates. However, most organic streams such as municipal solid waste or algal blooms present a high complexity and variable mixture of molecules, which makes specific compound production and separation difficult. Here we focus on flexible anaerobic fermentation and hydrothermal processes that can treat complex biomass as a whole to obtain a range of products within an integrated biorefinery concept.
Planet Earth is under severe stress from several inter-linked factors mainly associated with rising global population, linear resource consumption, security of resources, unsurmountable waste generation, and social inequality, which unabated will lead to an unsustainable 21st Century. The traditional way products are designed promotes a linear economy that discards recoverable resources and creates negative environmental and social impacts. Here, we suggest multi-disciplinary approaches encompassing chemistry, process engineering and sustainability science, and sustainable solutions in “game changer” challenges in three intersecting arenas of food: Sustainable diet, valorisation of unavoidable food supply chain wastes, and circularity of food value chain systems aligning with the United Nations’ seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. In the arena of sustainable diet, comprehensive life cycle assessment using the global life cycle inventory datasets and recommended daily servings is conducted to rank food choices, covering all food groups from fresh fruits/vegetables, lentils/pulses and grains to livestock, with regard to health and the environment, to emphasise the essence of plant-based diet, especially plant-based sources of protein, for holistic systemic sustainability and stability of the earth system. In the arena of unavoidable food supply chain wastes, economically feasible and synergistically (energy and material) integrated innovative biorefinery systems are suggested to transform unavoidable food waste into functional and platform chemical productions alongside energy vectors: Fuel or combined heat and power generation. In the arena of circularity of food value chain systems, novel materials and methods for plant-based protein functionalisation for food/nutraceutical applications are investigated using regenerative bio-surfactants from unavoidable food waste. This circular economy or industrial symbiosis example thus combines the other two arenas, i.e., plant-based protein sourcing and unavoidable food waste valorisation. The multi-disciplinary analysis here will eventually impact on policies for dietary change, but also contribute knowledge needed by industry and policy makers and raise awareness amongst the population at large for making a better approach to the circular economy of food.
The water-energy-food (WEF) nexus concept highlights the importance of integrative solutions that secure resource supplies and meet demands sustainably. There is a need for translating the nexus concept into clear frameworks and tools that can be applied to decision making. A simulation and analytics framework, and a concomitant Nexus Simulation System (NexSym) is presented here. NexSym advances the state-of-the-art in nexus tools by explicit dynamic modelling of local techno-ecological interactions relevant to WEF operations. The modular tool integrates models for ecosystems, WEF production and consumption components and allows the user to build, simulate and analyse a "flowsheet" of a local system. This enables elucidation of critical interactions and gaining knowledge and understanding that supports innovative solutions by balancing resource supply and demand and increasing synergies between components, while maintaining ecosystems. NexSym allowed assessment of the synergistic design of a local nexus system in a UK eco-town. The design improved local nutrient balance and meets 100% of electricity demand, while achieving higher carbon capture and biomass provisioning, higher water reuse and food production, however with a remarkable impact on land use.
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