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Heineken seeks university expertise to turn cider waste into gardening aid

21 October 2011

Scientists at Glyndŵr University are developing a novel way to ensure that leftovers from apples produced as a byproduct of Bulmers cider don’t go to waste – by reformulating them into slug pellets.

Heineken, makers of strongbow & Bulmers cider, produce 300 million litres of cider each year but the process creates a large volume of waste pomace, a combination of pips, pulp and skin.

The company has now commissioned the university’s Industrial Biopolymer Knowledge Transfer Centre (IBKTC)  to find new uses for apple pomace.

Apple contains pectin, a naturally occurring polymer commonly used as a gelling agent in jams and which is also present in the pomace.

Pectins from the leftover apples are being used as a binder in slug pellets under trials conducted by the university at its laboratories in Wrexham. They will create slug pellets using a formulation which will act as a molluscide, a pesticide targeted specifically for slugs.

Molluscides are commonly used both in gardens and in agriculture. The bait is fatal to slugs but harmless to pets, birds and humans.

The IBKTC, funded through the Welsh Government’s Academic Expertise for Business (A4B) programme, specialises in strategic and applied research, often in collaboration with industry, to find novel uses and applications for products using its expertise in the field of polymer and colloid chemistry.

Business Minister Edwina Hart said it was good to hear that expertise developed in Wales was being commercially exploited through this collaboration with a global brand

“Industrial collaboration at this level helps raise the international profile of Welsh academic institutions and their capability. It also shows the importance of ensuring that Intellectual Property from research is retained in Wales to provide additional, on-going commercial opportunities that can benefit the economy.”

Scientists at Glyndŵr’s IBKTC are working with MWD Productions Ltd, to exploit and commercialise the Intellectual Property (IP) that was originally developed 15 years ago with Bangor and Cardiff universities. MWD is a spin-off company that does not trade but is a consortia of IP owners who have patented technology.

Anna Davies, technology translator at Glyndŵr University, said: “It’s great to see industry taking the initiative to find uses for their waste products. This project has great potential to produce effective environmentally friendly slug pellets from a fully organic source. We are currently about halfway through the project and are currently submitting samples for field trials.”

A number of formulations using the pectins from the apple pomace will be developed by Glyndŵr’s scientists as part of field trials. These will be synthesised under different conditions to give a range of pellets.

i2L research, an independent contract research company based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne  will carry out lab scale field trials on the pellets to find the most effective batch.

Using i2L’s results, Glyndŵr University will then undertake a larger scale field trial to prove their effectiveness on slugs in natural conditions.

Kylee Goode, sustainability research engineer for Heineken, said the commissioned work formed an important part of the company’s commitment to sustainability.

She said: “We feel as global leaders in our field it is important to invest in research activities that can make our cider operations more sustainable and add value to our process. This work, if successful, will not only benefit our company but will produce an environmentally-friendly slug bait that is much safer than conventional metaldehyde pellets and other commercially available baits.”

Bulmers, part of the Heineken group, has been making cider in Hereford since 1887, and is the largest cider maker in the world. Making the renowned brands Bulmers, Strongbow, Jaques and Scrumpy Jack

Other recent projects undertaken at the IBKTC include attempts to create an eco-friendly spray which stops insects destroying crops by interfering with their pheromones.

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