IF food waste was a country it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind the USA and China, according to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
One third of the world's food is wasted each year, with around 7.6 million tonnes wasted in Australia alone.
Harnessing this food waste is a major challenge that Murdoch University research is working to address.
Developing interventions to arrest waste is a priority in achieving United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals on climate action and responsible consumption.
One promising area of progress is biorefining.
Second generation biorefineries can use food waste as feedstock to sustainably produce biobased products.
Murdoch University PhD student Chris Buhlmann recently published research into harnessing food waste for energy production.
He studied under the supervision of Murdoch University's Head of Engineering and Energy and president of Academic Council Professor Parisa Bahri.
"Current estimates indicate that between 1.3 and 1.6 billion tonnes is produced each year, so the recycling and recovery of value from food waste is of global importance," Mr Bhlmann said.
The research into developing a food waste biorefinery looked at how to improve the yield of food waste processing by capturing lactic acid.
What we discovered was that lactic acid recovery from fermentation is both technically feasible and commercially attractive, with the residues that remain after the lactic acid recovery process able to be used to make biogas.- Professor Parisa Bahri. Murdoch University
Lactic acid is used in the pharmaceutical, food and textile industries, as well as in the production of biodegradable plastics - potentially using one environmental problem to solve another.
While recent research has shown converting food waste into lactic acid and biogas is economically feasible, the overall impact of generating lactic acid on downstream biogas formation has not been investigated until now.
Dr Bahri said the research explored the technical feasibility for lactic acid recovery following the fermentation of food waste, prior to biogas formation.
"What we discovered was that lactic acid recovery from fermentation is both technically feasible and commercially attractive, with the residues that remain after the lactic acid recovery process able to be used to make biogas," Dr Bahri said.
The research looked at three scenarios; lactic acid fermentation; biogas production; and sequential lactic acid fermentation and biogas production from fermentation residues.
Mr Buhlmann said the research showed that an integrated biorefinery process - one that produces both lactic acid and biogas - presents an optimal use of energy and materials than producing just one of these products.
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