It is estimated that 1.3 billion tons of food, about one-third of the annual production for human use, is globally lost or wasted every year. Food loss and waste equal a major loss of earth resources, such as land, water, and energy, and lead to greater greenhouse gas emissions, which together contribute to climate change.
Agri-food waste originates throughout the whole food supply chain, from production to post-harvesting, industrial processing, distribution, domestic processing, and consumption, with wastage volumes differing among phases and food commodities. In recent decades, the world population increased up to 7 billion, generating around 683 million tons of agri-food waste, 34% related to waste-loss of food produced worldwide.
This issue concerning wastes has also been acknowledged as one of the characteristics in the supply chain of the agri-food industry, in which, generally, by-products are considered as waste rather than viewed as a new resource to be utilised. As the wastes are immediately disposed, the failure to gain economic value from the by-products is inevitable.
The use of this waste-loss has become a topic of great interest, leading to the transition and implementation of a circular economy model. The objective is to close the life cycle of the products through an increase and optimisation of use.
Utilising a circular economy application, agricultural waste can be turned into bio-products such as fertilisers, energy, materials and compounds. Utilising or converting the agri-food waste into new materials or products that instil the principles of reuse, repair and recycling could help local economies. This could not only generate a stream of profit but, in the long term, reduce environmental issues.
Banana is a fruit grown mainly in tropical countries of the world. After harvest, almost 60% of banana biomass is left as waste. Worldwide, about 114 million metric tons of banana waste-loss is produced, leading to environmental problems such as the excessive emission of greenhouse gases.
On average, a hectare of banana plantation produces 220 tonnes of waste annually and there are approximately 10 million hectares of banana plantain worldwide. This huge amount of agri-waste creates Methane, a greenhouse gas which is harmful to the environment.
The growing of bananas is a particularly wasteful form of agriculture, with only 12% of the plant actually being used. The pseudostem makes up much of the rest, and while it can be composted or used in the production of textiles, it’s usually just thrown away.
In addition, unlike other fruit trees such as apples and oranges, a banana palm takes 6-8 months to grow to maturity, producing one large bunch. The tree is then cut down and left to rot and a new shoot is grown in its place.
In order to bring new value to this type of agri-waste, Papyrus Australia has established a zero-waste, chemical-free process of converting this globally available banana agri-waste into products. Not only does this reduce the creation of Methane, but it also creates products that are sustainable alternatives to plastic, forest wood and chemicals.
Papyrus Australia’s technology can be used to make a range of moulded, panel and veneer products that have a diverse range of applications including moulded food packaging, building products including flooring, walls, ceilings, decking and doors, furniture and veneer trim.
Papyrus Australia has also developed an additional range of banana fibre agri-products including solid and liquid fertilisers. The production of these agri-products ensures the utilisation of the entire banana trunk.
So on the topic of agri-waste, it’s literally going bananas globally and the amount of wasteful material is only increasing. The good news is we continue to see and hear about ground-breaking and emerging technology such as Papyrus Australia’s, a team who is passionate about developing a sustainable future.
Papyrus’ patented technology is starting to make waves and that’s exciting for the industry and for our environment. With each banana tree producing just one bunch of bananas before it gets cut down, the potential environmental benefits of this pioneering technology are immense.