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Crustacean waste biorefinery as a sustainable cost-effective business model


Researchers from the Department of Catalysis and Chemical Reaction Engineering (D13) published a research article entitled “Crustacean waste biorefinery as a sustainable cost-effective business model in Chemical Engineering Journal (IF 13.3).

The idea of a circular economy based on reducing waste and recycling products has shaped recent policy efforts since it responds to both environmental and economic challenges. Thus, low-value waste materials must be treated as a renewable feedstock. However, converting waste into valuable products will not be enough as long as the current downstream processes continue to be economically and environmentally unfavorable. Hence, it is imperative to develop sustainable technologies for the Green Biorefinery concept.

Fish industry presents a large market value worldwide, with 70% of the caught fish being industrially processed and producing considerable amounts of waste. Seafood alone generates 6-8 M tons of crustacean shells waste, which is rich in valuable compounds like chitin, proteins and astaxanthin. Yet, these are still neglected. Chitin is a biopolymer with many applications while astaxanthin is an important natural colorant with dual function – color & health benefits. This is particularly beneficial considering the limited number of commercially available natural pigments and the impetus search for natural colorants to replace the synthetic dyes. 

In this systemic work, researchers with complementary technical expertise, covering the fields of chemical engineering design, chemistry, materials, predictive environmental sciences and economy, worked together to develop a sustainable multiproduct pipeline for the biorefinery of unwanted by-product substances. All process bio-products from the shells waste were recovered, separated, and purified. Only harmless solvents, namely water, the protonating acetic acid under mild functional conditions and buffers, conjugated with solid–liquid extraction, centrifugation, and membrane ultrafiltration technologies, were applied. Here, a success business model is shown after its standardized evaluation in terms of purification performance, economic impact, and life cycle assessment driven this sector for a sustainable ocean-based economy.

This work was funded by the Slovenian Research Agency under research core funding P2-0152.


Contact for further information: filipa.andre.vicente(at); uros.novak(at); blaz.likozar(at)

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