28 October 2021
Assessing the sustainability performance of Pro-Enrich products and processes from a life cycle perspective.
The Pro-Enrich project has taught us that there are many technical challenges for the development of effective biorefinery systems converting agricultural or food processing residues into functional ingredients for diverse applications (food, feed, cosmetics and wood adhesives). However, it is also important to evaluate and understand the sustainability performance of the project innovations, including environmental, economic, and social dimensions. For this final phase of the project, LEITAT has taken on the task of assessing the sustainability performance of various Pro-Enrich biorefinery systems that were successfully tested by project partners at pilot scale or deemed suitable for further upscaling.
An understanding of impact hotspots, and their interrelation along the three sustainability dimensions, offers valuable insights into how the footprint of the final products can be reduced most effectively and how benefits can be maximized. Already, the completed social impact assessment of Pro-Enrich production systems and value chains, considering a broad range of relevant stakeholders, has highlighted both challenges and opportunities for potential future implementation scenarios, as well as providing a guide to how they may be addressed to achieve optimal outcomes. Work is still ongoing to finalize the environmental and economic assessments, including comparisons with existing market solutions where possible.
Safety concerns and regulatory obligations were also evaluated by LEITAT. The carried-out health and safety assessment focused on the risks posed to human health during the process of extraction and processing of Pro-Enrich biorefinery compounds from side-streams of citrus products, tomatoes and rapeseed oil. This assessment showed that hazards associated with the developed protocols were under reasonable controlled conditions, highlighting the risk associated to additional chemical compounds used in these processes as the main risk of concern. Other identified risks were connected to physical, electrical and psychosocial hazards.
In terms of legal obligations and non-legal limitations and barriers associated to the Pro-Enrich products, no specific burdens were identified for the use of bio-based products extracted and processed within Pro-Enrich project due to neither their origin nor their chemical nature, considering all stages of the process, from collection of feedstocks to end-user applications. However, the main issue that bio-based industry has to solve is the existence of few policy instruments and consequently no supporting long-term policy goals in place. The existence of subsidies and incentives for bioenergy and biofuels creates an artificial competitiveness between fossil-based and bio-based fuels whereas the lack of subsidies for bio-based products implies a low competitiveness compared with petrochemical materials. These subsidies for biofuels make it also easier for them to access biomass which induce a lower biomass availability for bio-based products and results in a lower competitiveness.
Pro-Enrich sustainability assessments