RICH Project

Among the 13 winning projects of the Cariplo Foundation’s 2020 call “Circular Economy: research for a sustainable future”, there is RICH project – Turning Rubbish Into biobased materials: a sustainable CHain for the full valorization of organic waste.

Waste management currently represents one of the most pressing global challenges and plays a key role in supporting sustainable development. In fact, we are witnessing a rapid increase in waste produced due to a growing population and, at the same time, a depletion of natural resources. In this scenario, it becomes urgent to promote the transition towards circular economy models focused on “closing the loop”, through the valorisation of waste. In particular, the recycling of the organic fraction of municipal solid waste (OFMSW) is often neglected since the perceived value is lower than that of other materials, such as plastic, glass or metal. However, an appropriate treatment of the OFMSW could lead to a significant improvement of the entire waste management system, contributing to the reduction of the negative effects on the environment and public health generated by improper disposal practices and poor-quality treatments.

In this context, RICH project brings together the expertise of an interdisciplinary research group to investigate the use of the larvae of the soldier fly, Hermetia illucens, to convert low-value organic waste into biomolecules to generate products innovative. In particular, the project aims to develop an innovative and integrated circular economy chain which, starting from the biotransformation of the OFMSW, allows the targeted production of bio-based materials with high technological value and environmentally friendly, such as bioplastics and other advanced protein-based materials, and lipids for biofuel production.

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES:

  • Development of a biotransformation system of OFMSW mediated by insects. Organic waste will be valorised through an innovative approach that allows its bioconversion by soldier fly larvae
  • Development of a targeted extraction and fractionation process aimed at recovering the main biomolecules, namely lipids and proteins, for their further valorisation
  • Development of an innovative and reliable process for the production of protein-based materials and their characterization for obtaining bioplastic films
  • Evaluation of the environmental and socio-economic impact of the supply chain in order to evaluate the attractiveness on the market of the products derived from the project and the environmental benefits deriving from the supply chain

PROJECT PARTNERS:

  • University of Insubria (project coordinator): Department of Biotechnology and Life Sciences; Department of Theoretical and Applied Sciences; Department of Economics
  • University of Milan: Department of Biosciences
  • Polytechnic University of Milan: Department of Chemistry, Materials and Chemical Engineering “G. Natta”
  • Deutsches Institut für Kautschuktechnologie e. V.