“An estimated 90,000 tonnes of fruit waste is generated annually in Flanders,” says Evert Vanecht researcher at the Sustainable Resources research group at UCLL in Limburg. There are several reasons for this; harvest residues that remain on land, fruit that does not meet the selection criteria of the fruit auction, fruit that is not sold in supermarkets and fruit thrown away in households instead of consumed.
Evert investigates how this residual flow can be caseorized in a more sustainable way. Especially on the basis of discarded apples, the group developed the biomaterial Appeal with a leathery structure that apprects the tensile strength of artificial leather and is completely biodegradable. “Our challenges are primarily technical”, explains Evert Vanecht. “If we get our material as strong and water resistant as plastic and leather, then we have a sustainable alternative that we can offer to the industry. We are now at 14 newtons per square millimeter, we can now hang a bucket of water on a strip of 8 to 2 centimeters.”
The Belorta cooperative has invested in the Appeal research and sees potential in the biomaterial as packaging for fruit and vegetables. High-end applications have already been experimented with. For example, designer Anouck Kuyckx made a handbag out of the Appeal material. In the meantime, Evert and his colleague Joachim are exploring how to scale up the production of the Appeal biomaterial.