I. The current pattern of materials use in Europe
The current pattern of materials use in Europe endangers the availability of the natural resources on which our welfare is based. In addition, this pattern of usage has a negative impact on the quality of air, water and soil, on human health, on climate change and on biodiversity. This environmental degradation occurs both within and outside the EU. If each inhabitant of the world would adopt a consumption pattern equal to that of the average European, the ecological carrying capacity of our planet would be exceeded by far. It is well known that Europes’ imports of agri-food commodities from poorer countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia impact many societal, economic, cultural and environmental dimensions such as landscape resilience (see the dedicated large extension of land cultivation) and food security of local communities. A typical example is the coffee commodity. Another relevant example is constituted by the so-called high-tech metals. Platinum, cobalt, titanium, indium and others are critical materials for the development of environmental technologies aimed at boosting energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The EU will not master the shift towards sustainable production and environmentally responsible products without such high-tech metals. EU is faced with a supply risk for high-tech metals due to a high import dependence especially from Africa, where 80% of world production is extracted. Put simply, while Europe imports natural resources, it is exporting environmental pressures. Summing up, the main problems related to the present European model of materials use are twofold :
- The environmental impact generated by the current pattern of materials use.
The extensive use of natural resources to generate energy and to produce products causes direct and indirect environmental problems and pressures, such as the destruction of fertile land and loss of biodiversity due to extraction; pollution of air, water and soil during production and waste management; the negative effects of transport; and global warming. In short, our use of materials and the related production of damaging greenhouse gas, toxic and non-degradable waste are more extensive than the planet’s capacity to maintain healthy ecosystems.
- Scarcity caused by the current pattern of materials use.
The current pattern of production, consumption and materials use in Europe endangers the availability of the natural resources on which our well-being is based. Natural resources use in Europe exceeds availability, and Europe heavily relies on the import of natural resources. Worldwide population growth (from 7 billion to more than 9 billion by 2050) and economic development lead to an increasing demand for natural resources, many of which are finite. This implies that growing global competition for natural resources is adding to the concerns about the future availability of natural resources for Europe. All the above mentioned facts urge Europe to move from waste policies to materials policies covering the full life-cycle, crossing generational and geographical boundaries.
II. Investing in new Bio-refinery approaches
III. The GINEXTRA® technology
GINEXTRA® is already a European Registered Brand (Registration number 7055312, classes 01, 07, 16, 22, 23, 40) which identify patented and proprietary multipurpose modular bio-refinery technologies and a duly tested model of community regeneration. Thanks to an intense research activity, led in partnership with the most advanced European R&D bodies specialised in white and environmental biotechnologies and their application to natural fibres, ARTES has achieved the following tangible results:
- Two proprietary non-commercially released microbial strains selected and used to produce an enzymatic cocktail with a high degradative capacity of lignin and hemicellulose, but not capable of attacking the cellulose component, which had to be separated but not modified in its physical and mechanical characteristics.
- Realisation and patenting of a pilot biotechnology plant (in a small scale for the extraction of 5 kg. per day of crude fiber) with low power consumption (Patent n° 0001396855 entitled “Machine, procedure and combined plant for the separation of fibers for textile by macerated stems of fiber plant”); which only uses enzymatic retting and mechanical defibering.
- Conception, engineering and lab testing (300 gr, 2,5 kg) of a multipurpose new fast bio – refinery plant, which reduces the fibre extraction time to 1/8, compared with the already patented plant and produces liquid and solid wastes of particular potential interest for the extraction of hemicelluloses, lignin, and other biochemicals (patent demand N°To achieve rapid, sustained and concerted changes in lifestyles and resource use that cut across all levels of society and economy).
- Cultivation and mechanized harvesting of the Spartium junceum successfully tested, with parameter definition of profitability compared with hemp and flax;
- Industrial spinning and weaving of the resulting fibres and realisation of samples of yarn, paper, bacterial nanocellulose, lignin and hemicellulose.
- Creation and registration of the CTM GINEXTRA (Registration number 7055312, classes 01, 07, 16, 22, 23, 40)
Upscaling and integration of technologies, moving from lab research and small-scale demonstrators is the goal of ARTES which has formed a large partnership among industries and biotechnological European laboratories and is developing project proposals in both BBI JU calls and other programmes such as ENI CBCMED and INTERREG Central Europe. A huge investment in project design and development. GINEXTRA® technology consists in obtaining fiber from Spartium junceum (Spanish broom, or Ginestra) a perennial shrub which has a structure similar to a brush, with straight pedicles and evergreen, tender twigs. ARTES, has isolated strains and developed an enzymatic process which uses proprietary enzymatic cocktail branded as GINEXTRA® with high performance as ligninase but which does not effect cellulose and allows the extraction of intact high-quality fibers. The fiber extracted has a great interest in many industries starting form textile. Spanish Broom plants are often found growing together as dense thickets, in waste areas, abandoned pastures, and roadsides, preferring poor, infertile soils. Its penetrating root structure indicates that Spanish Broom is an important pioneer species, holding together poor soils and preventing erosion. It is indigenous to temperate Europe, northern as well as in South Asia, such as in Tajikistan, but also it spontaneously grows in Latin America, such as Paraguay.
IV. Side stream valorization: the project VALUE FROM WASTE | VA-WA
One of the projects conceived and recently submitted by ARTES and its international network, within the BBI-JU the last call, is the project “VALUE FROM WASTE | VA-WA – Upscale and integrate multipurpose modular bio-refinery to produce high value-added materials from wastes originating from renewable plant biomass”.