Circular Economy: how to recover grape waste

recover grapes waste

In this article we are going to look at how to recover grape waste once the pressing is finished.

In Italy, 50 million hectoliters of wine and must are produced each year, of which approximately 20 percent is made up of the solid residues of winemaking. This means that the amount of waste in the Italian wine industry is about 2 million tons.

The waste includes pomace, grape seeds, stalks, leaves and cellar wastes. But how to recover grape processing waste? Grape scraps and by-products can become valuable resources to obtain functional, innovative and sustainable products following the concept of circular economy.

All this contributes to opportunities for making the world economy more sustainable and safeguarding resources. There are many companies and cooperatives that have developed technologies that can provide products used in a wide range of sectors, from food to cosmetics, from pharmaceuticals to construction. Let’s take a closer look at a few examples.

1. How to recover grape processing waste: pomacewaste-wine-economy-circular

Let’s start with the pomace. Traditionally, the pomace is distilled to make grappa or returned to the vineyard as a source of nutrients for the soil.

What else can we do with the pomace once the pressing of the grapes is finished? One of the main fields of application for the reuse of pomace is cosmetics. The pomace turns out to be key components of oils, masks, and beauty creams with purifying, moisturizing, and toning functions for the face and body. In addition, extracts from the skins are rich in polyphenols that can exert an anti-inflammatory action and fight free radicals, preventing aging. An Italian company that reuses grape production waste to make natural cosmetics is Grapey.

Cosmetics is not the only area where grape pomace can be used to give them a second life. Did you know that they can also be used to make green and cruelty free fabrics and fibers? The oils and fibers contained in the pomace are subjected to special treatments to give rise to textiles that are completely similar to leather of animal origin, but completely plant-based. One of the first examples of the production of vegetable leather derived from grape waste is wine leather produced by the Milan-based company Vegea.

1.1 Pomace in medical and biofuel fields.

Moving to the medical field, at Nobil Bio, a biotechnology research center in Asti, it has been experimentally demonstrated that polyphenols extracted from grape pomace can combat osteoporosis and facilitate bone reconstruction. The company aims to lay the groundwork for developing a granular material for bone regeneration, as well as a cosmetic line that takes advantage of the antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties of the same polyphenols.

The pomace can also be used as a source to produce ethanol for use alone or in blends in so-called biofuels. In Italy, the ViEnergy project, has made it possible to obtain a fuel consisting of a combination of bioethanol from wine waste, diesel fuel and additives of plant origin. The first tests were carried out on public transportation in Marsala, in order to detect the likely benefits in particulate emissions, which turned out to be lower than those produced by vehicles powered by fossil diesel fuel.

2. How to recover and reuse grape seeds?

Grape seeds are the seeds of the grape berry and they too can be recovered and processed. In fact, an oil of great nutritional value is extracted from these seeds, which is widely used in industry, cosmetics and food.

This cold-pressed oil is particularly rich in antioxidants (e.g., resveratrol, linoleic acid) and in several studies has been shown to be a possible remedy for alleviating multiple ailments: visual, cardiovascular, lymphatic, it also gives relief from premenstrual syndrome and contributes in cancer prevention. Since antioxidants perish with heat, it is advisable to use it raw, perfect for dressing salads, vegetables or fish fillets.

There are studies that have evaluated the use of grape seeds in the formulation of frankfurters for the purpose of reducing caloric content and lowering cholesterol levels, or in combination with a grape seed extract and a grape seed meal to replace added fat and prevent lipid oxidation.

3. What to do with grape stalks?how-to-recover-grape-stems

Let us now talk about the stems. The stalk is one of the least valued grape by-products in the field of human nutrition. It is often recovered in feed production.

Stalks have a high presence of holocellulose and can be used as a source of cellulose for making reinforced composites or for paper production.

4. How to recover grape waste: wine lees.

Lees are the residue deposited after wine fermentation consisting mainly of spent yeast, tartrates and impurities derived from grapes. Lees are traditionally a key raw material for the production of ethanol and tartaric acid. The latter has many applications in food, as it has been shown to be an excellent stabilizer, replacing citric acid.

Even some acids, such as gallic acid, along with other phenolic extracts, appear to have the ability to counter bacterial adhesion to dental enamel, prompting interest in the production of functional foods such as chewing gum.

4.1 Production of ice cream and biogas with wine lees.

Some studies have experimented with the addition of wine lees during ice cream production, positively modifying its characteristics such as viscosity, fat globule size, pH and specific gravity, enriching the final product in phenolic compounds and antioxidant substances.

Further enhancement of the lees could also be the production of methane-rich biogas by anaerobic digestion. Indeed, there are numerous studies using lees as a co-substrate for the production of both biogas and biostabilized digestate.

These are just some of the ways to enhance resources and repurpose oenological waste, generating a more sustainable economy. We work today with the greatest respect for the environment in order to safeguard the future.

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