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Pectins from sugar beet pulp are suitable as bio-based ingredients for dishwashing detergents and in the production of leather. This is shown in research results by Wageningen Food & Biobased Research together with Cosun, Dalli de Klok and Smit & Zoon. By replacing petroleum-based ingredients with bio-based alternatives, the chemical industry can become more sustainable: there are fewer CO2 emissions from production and fewer non-degradable and toxic substances are released. Cosun, supplier and processor of beet pulp in Breda, sees the results of the study as an incentive to build a new factory; Dalli de Klok (which supplies washing products in Heerde and Hoensbroek) and Smit & Zoon (a global player in leather products) will use beet pulp in their production processes.

Pectins

The pectins serve as functional substitutes for non-degradable polymers in dishwashing detergents. The share of bio-based ingredients in dishwashing detergents is thus higher and the product is more easily biodegradable. The same pectins are also useful in the wet process of leather production. For example, they can influence the colour intensity. Both companies see this as an important step in their transition to a more sustainable production process. Smit & Zoon sees sustainability as one of the company’s most important goals. “We believe that we have a role to play in this, both for our own business operations and those of the entire leather industry”, the company says. “Our goal is to be one of the leading companies towards a more sustainable supply chain in leather.”

Cosun also thinks it’s a promising development. “We process our residual beet pulp to the highest possible quality and the chemical industry has a sustainable solution,” says Harry Raaijmakers, who is responsible for chemical competence within Cosun R&D. “Replacing petrochemical raw materials with bio-based alternatives is not only important for CO2 reduction, but also for persistence: bio-based alternatives are biodegradable and less toxic. We would, therefore, like to invest in a pilot plant.” There is no decision yet: “We will only do this if there is sufficient justification for the volume and potential of the product”.

Wageningen

Jacco van Haveren, programme manager at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research (Wageningen University and Research, WUR), thinks it is a good example of the development of new bio-based ingredients. “They are crucial to making the chemical industry more sustainable because they result in less CO2 emissions and more biodegradable products in the long term than replacing one-to-one existing chemical ingredients with a bio-based alternative. In addition, the all-new ingredients contribute to the reduction of environmental and health risks, as there is no longer any exposure to certain chemicals.”

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Author profile picture Bart Brouwers is co-founder and co-owner of Media52 BV, the publisher of innovationorigins.com.