A new Welsh Government funded (of almost £600,000) project is looking to isolate and extract sugars and other components from ryegrass, and convert them into products that have a lower carbon footprint than oil. These will include pulp-moulded packaging products for retail applications such as food packaging.
The Sustainable Ryegrass Products (STARS) project is led by scientists at the BioComposites Centre at Bangor University and the Institute of Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University, and informed by industry partners including food retailer Waitrose.
Quentin Clarke, head of sustainability at Waitrose says: “We are working hard to use easy-to-recycle, sustainable materials for packaging, so there is a natural synergy between this project and Waitrose’s approach to ‘Treading lightly’, and reducing its environmental footprint.
“Moving to easily recycled fibre-based packaging for foods, where this shows an environmental benefit, is something we are keen to develop.
“A key element of this project will be engaging with the public from an early stage to ensure we are delivering solutions that meet their needs. We look forward to trialling the prototypes with key stakeholders.”
Dr Joe Gallagher from IBERS comments: “The STARS project takes previous research in this area to the next level. This is where we can demonstrate the process at a commercially relevant scale, using pilot facilities and working with the food supply chain to bring this concept to the public’s attention.”
Opportunities for farmers
If successful, these new products could provide farmers with alternative markets for surplus grass grown on their farms. Grass is the UK’s national crop and the yield potential on many farms is often not realised.