The impact of CONSERVAL on canning companies in Galicia and Northern Portugal

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The CONSERVAL project hopes to learn first-hand about the current situation of the marine product transformation industry in relation to the management of by-products and effluents, in order to understand the potential for transferring the project’s best suggestions into the sector. The results expected throughout the three years of the project’s execution shall allow the industry to enjoy new technologies in order to not only achieve an improved competitive edge and a clear distinction for facing future challenges, but also to improve sustainability through the use of resources. The purposes of the project are very in line with the new suggestion on the horizon for 2020-2030 from the Xunta de Galicia council within a circular economy.

For the project’s first activity, they hope to gain a current picture of the transformation sector in terms of the use of by-products and waters, depending on the type of primary materials processed (túmidos, mussels, cephalopods, sardines…), the size of the company (large, medium or small) and the transformed product (preserved, frozen, fresh or precooked product). For this, several questionnaires have been developed for companies to answer, and from which the analysis shall allow us to see differences at the time of dealing with the challenges and the possible interests of particular companies, or to promote mergers between the companies themselves, due to proximity, that will prove to be optimal for accomplishing viable management and valuation models derived from the project results. The sectoral map resulting from this activity shall serve to help with these plans.

Currently, both in the case of the by-products as well as for the effluents, it has become difficult to achieve comprehensive management since, on the one hand, no separate plan for the collection of these streams has been made and, on the other hand, both substrata have different characteristics depending on the primary material and the process, leading to an inefficient use of its potential, even in large companies, and therefore diminishing the productivity of potential valuation processes.

However, do my company’s wastewater or by-products have any added value?, managers of the industry companies may ask. Well, the answer is yes! Both are considered to be the project’s ‘primary materials’ and contain substances of interest such as sugars, fats or proteins that are likely to be recuperated from their multiple applications, such as precursors of bioalcohols, biopolymers, bioplastics, additives or new aquaculture feeding ingredients. This new focus on recuperation and bioproduction considered in the CONSERVAL project and in line with the bioeconomy directives, promoting circular and more sustainable companies, shall allow us to reduce the environmental impact of agro-food processes. This new business vision shall allow the sector to position itself as a more efficient productive environment, not only due to the diversification of the products that may be brought to market, but also due to the improvement in the quality of the waste and management of the by-products, therefore allowing us to clearly reduce the environmental impact and avoid the depletion and unsustainable use of natural resources.

Nowadays, concern is increasing among consumers about the environmental impact of the products they purchase (through a carbon footprint or water footprint). Obtaining products in the project that allow us to close off sustainable production cycles from those that are considered ‘waste’ today would allow this sector to take a step towards sustainability.