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Solutions through the new use for a waste of banana crop to develop products in aquaculture and plastics sector (LIFE BAQUA)
Start date: Jul 1, 2016, End date: Jun 30, 2019 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Background Bananas represent 33% of the total agricultural production of the Canary Isles. The annual turnover of banana production amounts to €280 million (with an average domestic price of 0.81 €/kg in 2014). The Canary Isles account for 52% of total European banana production (the other main producers for Europe being the French overseas territories in the Americas). Each year 400 MKg of bananas are produced, with 9 000 ha under cultivation, creating employment for over 27 000 people, both directly and indirectly. The downside of banana production is that it generates organic waste (pseudostem) that is usually left on the plantation once the fruit has been harvested. Since this has no nutritional value for the soil its accumulation poses a problem for future harvests and may have negative impacts on the environment. It generates various micro-organisms, affecting other crops because clogged streams can accumulate water and result in fungi growth. While various studies demonstrate the significant benefits of banana plant waste due to the high content in fibres and compounds such as antioxidants, its full potential has not been realised. Objectives LIFE BAQUA aims to make optimum use of an organic waste product that is usually landfilled: the waste (pseudostem) from banana crops. The project will create green business opportunities by valorising this waste into products with market value, contributing to the goals of the EU’s 7th Environment Action Programme of the creation of a resource-efficient, green and competitive low-carbon economy. This will be done by: Extracting the waste’s natural fibres and using them as natural additives to reinforce 100% bio-based and 92-98% biodegradable plastics. In particular, the project will produce: - Prototypes for biodegradable fish feed bags; - Biodegradable covers to protect banana trees against UV radiation; and - Plastic components for different devices and household appliances. Using an important by-product of the fibre extraction process, pulp: banana crops have a high antioxidant content and the pulp will be used in the manufacture of fish feed. (Currently, synthetic substances are added as antioxidants to fish feed to improve the life of the final product.)This will reduce waste during harvesting and final consumption, thereby eliminating the need for waste transportation and its related cost. Importantly, the project makes a special contribution to the new EU Circular Economy Package, as it actively contributes to two of its five priority areas: plastics and bio-waste. The reuse of this waste will also help by cutting GHG emissions from agriculture, in line with the EU’s Energy Roadmap 2050 towards a low carbon economy, which suggests for the farming sector a reduction of the GHG emissions of a 36-37% for 2030 and 42-49% for 2050. Expected results: Production of 1 000 kg of natural fibres and 10 000 kg of pulp per year; Production of new bio-based and biodegradable plastics for the production of: - Covers for UV protection and bags for fish feed conservation and transport; and - Plastic components, free of synthetic additives, for the fabrication of various devices and appliances e.g. mounting sleeves, stove covers, domestic ventilation units and cooling devices. Reduction of CO2 emissions in the manufacture of plastics. In particular: - The production of new PLA (Polylactic acid) plastic film products designed during the project will reduce emissions by approximately 50%; and - New plastic parts with 20% natural, instead of synthetic, reinforcement will lead to 30%-60% emission reductions depending on the type of reinforcement. 100% reduction in N2O emissions as a result of reusing banana crop waste; Improvement in fish feed quality by: - Testing seven different fish feed diets to boost fish growth, enhance aquafeed organoleptic properties and improve the quality of fish for human consumption; - Substituting synthetic antioxidants in fish feed. A support document will be produced for the Canary Government using project results to encourage co-financing for an industrial-scale plant for extracting fibre and pulp (an estimated figure of 2 000 t/year natural fibres and 20 000 t/year of pulp). This document will include recommendations to improve public policy for supporting farmers and agricultural industry in the field of natural fibre and pulp extraction and processing.
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