From apples we can not only obtain cider or jam, we can achieve even paper tissues and eco-leather. How? Using their waste, such as cores and peels. These scraps, until a few years ago, were almost exclusively recycled to feed the biogas plants. Today it is no longer the case. And this is possible thanks to the intuition of Alberto Volcan, a South Tyrolean engineer working for some time face to face with top experts of the Polytechnic of Milan and innovators of the most prestigious German research institutes.
In 2004 Volcan understood that apples produced in the South Tyrol valleys, where it is concentrated more than half of the Italian production of apples, could generate more business as well as the fruit and vegetable and biogas, just starting from the re-use of waste to produce the “cartamela” for tissues and kitchen rolls, and “pellemela” for shoes.
The first to believe in the idea of Volcan were the Province of Bolzano and the Merloni Spa, who financed the prototype. Although the real breakthrough was a few years later when a local start-up, Frumat (a chemical analysis laboratory built in 2009 in Bolzano by Hannes Parth) has begun to carry out the first tests and to develop the project at industrial level without any public support. The results were surprising and today there are several companies working this type of food waste transforming an average of 30 tons/month.
“The first product that we made was the Cartamela – explains Hannes Parth – a product made by pure cellulose enriched with the scraps of apples that, after the initial production of toilet paper, today finds different applications as kitchen rolls, paper tissues and boxes for packaging. Our research and our experiments, however, do not stop and now we are engaged in the realization of pellemela, a product that is obtained by processing apples waste but for the bookbinding, shoes and coatings of sofas and chairs “.
What is the market response? “We have – says Parth – positive feedback both in Italy and abroad. In particular, in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France, where awareness of these productions has much older roots than in Italy”.
Apple trees are the most common fruit tree type in the EU covering 450,000 ha. Poland is the biggest apple growing country with nearly one third of the EU total apple tree area. Italy and Romania follow with each a share of over 11 %. France (8 %), Germany (7 %), Spain (6 %) and Hungary (nearly 6 %) are also major apple producing countries. Together these seven EU Member States cover more than 80 % of the total EU area under apple trees.
by Lara M. Moreno