Transforming Food Waste Into Wonder

Creative techniques that repurpose food waste into a range of valuable products are giving even fruit peels and fish scales a new lease on life.

From soft foods to sturdy building blocks

At first bite, chewy, leafy vegetables and soft fruit pulp may not seem like the strongest of substances to be used in manufacturing. But researchers from the University of Tokyo in Japan have developed an innovative technique to transform food waste into robust construction materials—some even sturdier than concrete.

By borrowing the concept of heat pressing—traditionally used to build construction materials from wood powder—the team churned out food powder from a variety of products, ranging from seaweed, cabbage leaves, oranges and banana peels. After vacuum drying and pulverizing, the solid food-turned-powder is mixed with water and subjected to high temperatures, pressing the ingredients into a construction-ready mold.

The team found that all the materials showcased a bending strength exceeding the set targets, barring pumpkin powder. Best of all, using Chinese cabbage leaves led to a product with three times the durability of concrete which could effectively reinforce the weaker pumpkin-based material.

Besides resisting breakage, the materials were well-protected against all sorts of threats that often destroy fresh produce like fungal infections, insect attacks and rotting; they showed no signs of degradation even after exposure to air for four months.

Whether used for creating longer-lasting food products or building tough raw materials for the construction sector, this novel solution could soon serve up a fresh take on recycling and upcycling food waste.

Erinne Ong reports on basic scientific discoveries and impact-oriented applications, ranging from biomedicine to artificial intelligence. She graduated with a degree in Biology from De La Salle University, Philippines.

Related Stories from Asian Scientist