BioSA: Production of Bio-Succinic Acid from Apple Pomace Using an Environmental Approach

Sara González-García, Lucía Argiz, Patricia Míguez, Beatriz Gullón

Fermentation-derived bio-succinic acid (BioSA) is a valuable intermediate; it is used as a chemical building block, and has multiple industrial applications as an alternative to petroleum counterparts.

The aim of this study was to develop a full-scale plant to produce BioSA from apple pomace, a low-cost solid waste from the cider- and juice-making industry, based on a biorefinery concept, and to determine its environmental profile using a cradle- to-factory-gate, scaled-up LCA approach.

Foreground data used in this LCA were based on mass and energy flows, modelled in detail.

The production process was divided into three stages:

  1. reconditioning and storage;
  2. fermentation with Actinobacillus succinogenes;
  3. purification.

The results indicate that the use of enzymes is responsible for the highest environmental burdens, due to their highly energy-intensive background production processes. When these were excluded from the analysis (following other studies available in the literature), the purification stage played an environmentally significant role, due to the extraction and distillation units involved. The electricity use and the requirements for organic solvents in these operations make up the largest environmental burdens. Thus, approaches with the highest potential for improvement must involve both operations.

Alternatives for improvement are proposed that offer interesting potential reductions in the environmental profile, especially at the purification stage.

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Social Life Cycle Approach as a Tool for Promoting the Market Uptake of Bio-Based Products from a Consumer Perspective

Pasquale Marcello Falcone and Enrica Imbert

The sustainability of bio-based products, especially when compared with fossil based products, must be assured. The life cycle approach has proven to be a promising way to analyze the social, economic and environmental impacts of bio-based products along the whole value chain. Until now, however, the social aspects have been under-investigated in comparison to environmental and economic aspects. In this context, the present paper aims to identify the main social impact categories and indicators that should be included in a social sustainability assessment of bio-based products, with a focus on the consumers’ category. To identify which social categories and indicators are most relevant, we carry out a literature review on existing social life cycle studies; this is followed by a focus group with industrial experts and academics. Afterwards, we conduct semi-structured interviews with some consumer representatives to understand which social indicators pertaining to consumers are perceived as relevant. Our findings highlight the necessity for the development and dissemination of improved frameworks capable of exploiting the consumers’ role in the ongoing process of market uptake of bio-based products. More specifically, this need regards the effective inclusion of some social indicators (i.e., end users’ health and safety, feedback mechanisms, transparency, and end-of-life responsibility) in the social life cycle assessment scheme for bio-based products. This would allow consumers, where properly communicated, to make more informed and aware purchasing choices, therefore having a flywheel effect on the market diffusion of a bio-based product.

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