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From trash to treasure: SCO2’s paving the way to sustainable and profitable food waste reduction

Over 160 million tons of food waste is generated each year from food growers and processors

Photo courtesy of SCO2 from iStock
Photo courtesy of SCO2 from iStock

Opinions expressed by Digital Journal contributors are their own.

Over 160 million tons of food waste is generated each year from food growers and processors. Some of it is byproducts; sometimes, it’s bumper crops that have no place to go. Either way, most of this nutrient-rich waste is destined for landfills, causing environmental concerns and an estimated $130 billion in losses. Moreover, the potential for recovering high value bioactive compounds and making significant, positive, environmental impact remains largely untapped. 

In light of these wasteful and costly practices, there is a pressing need for sustainable food upcycling solutions that are efficient, cost-effective and scalable. SCO2 is at the forefront of addressing these challenges with its patented supercritical CO2 extraction technology. By focusing on industrial-scale operations and ease of use, SCO2’s technology sets a new standard for sustainable food waste management, which large food manufacturers see as a way to make their sustainability efforts pay off.

SCO2 offers several advantages over traditional extraction and waste management methods, including enhanced efficiency, reduced environmental impact and improved product quality. Traditional methods often lead to food waste being relegated to compost, animal feed or landfills, whereas SCO2’s technology enables processors to profitably upcycle their waste. 

There are several beneficial products that food manufacturers can extract from their existing food waste. Extracting flavors, colors, functional ingredients and more from food waste can be used to enhance food products and reduce the need for artificial additives. Certain compounds from waste, like antioxidants and vitamins, also benefit cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. 

While extracting compounds from plants has been around for centuries, traditional methods are not viable options for processing waste. CEO Michael Sigel explains further, “The most prevalent extraction methods use chemicals, such as Hexane or Ethanol which are effective but are hazardous and toxic and not a ‘sustainable’ solution. Supercritical CO2 extraction has been around for decades and while the greenest method, it is complex and costly to operate making it cost prohibitive for industrial scale. SCO2 took the best parts of supercritical CO2 extraction and then improved the process 10x with a simple and scalable design resulting in a cost-effective, eco-friendly industrial solution.” 

The potential for widespread adoption of SCO2’s solution is significant. “We can foresee eliminating roughly 100 million tons of food processing waste per year,” Sigel asserts. Beyond the environmental benefits, there is also substantial revenue potential, with SCO2 positioning itself for a billion-dollar opportunity. While scaling to such levels will require additional partnerships and capital investment, the trajectory is promising, especially given the growing momentum to replace environmentally harmful extraction methods like hexane. 

Sigel adds, “The equipment is designed to align with capital expenditure criteria processors are used to. As with all CAPEX spend, a ‘go/no go’ decision comes down to projected ROI. Our goal with SCO2 is to ensure a favorable return on investment while requiring minimal footprint and maintenance. Current customers see how SCO2’s patented technology can unlock great potential in their organizations. We collaborate with them to build the business case, show proof of concept with their biomass and plan scaled implementations.”

Founder Olaf N. Lee’s 25 plus years developing and improving systems and equipment for waste processing and recycling, along with his passion for business building and sustainable innovation, were the impetus for SCO2’s creation and impending success. Sigel shares, “In talking with more than a  dozen experts in this area, they keep validating our solution, and they’re excited about what this might mean for the industry. This can set a new standard in green extraction. We’re now thinking about how we can accelerate our own growth. How do we get the technology out there faster to more people and make it more accessible so that the innovation can continue to happen and evolve? We need to share it.”

SCO2’s innovative approach to waste management represents a positive paradigm shift in the food processing industry. By offering a cost-effective, scalable and environmentally-friendly solution, SCO2 is paving the way for big food manufacturers to manage their food processing waste in positive and profitable ways. With a clear focus on efficiency, sustainability and partnership, SCO2 is lighting the path towards a brighter future for the industry and beyond.

Explore SCO2’s extraction evolution today.

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Jon Stojan is a professional writer based in Wisconsin. He guides editorial teams consisting of writers across the US to help them become more skilled and diverse writers. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife and children.

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