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From apple and pear waste to fruit leather

Food waste is unjustifiable in our society, and one of the biggest culprits when it comes to food waste is the fruit sector. About 40 to 50% of the fruit cultivated is lost somewhere in the food chain. An upcycling option for this fruit waste is to turn it into a durable, leather-like material. This fruit leather is an eco-friendly and humane alternative to animal leather, for which over a billion animals are slaughtered every year.

19% of apples and 12% of pears in Flanders do not meet the aesthetic standards imposed by the retail sector and consumers. Part of that surplus is processed into juices or syrups and cattle feed, but fruit farmers and auctions (BelCool, BelOrta) are still faced with enormous amounts of ‘food waste’. Together with ILVO (the Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food), they are demanding a sustainable solution. This fruit leather and its economic model are being developed in collaboration with KU Leuven - Composite Materials Group, UHasselt and UC Leuven Limburg.

The aim is to produce a recyclable, compostable and bio-based leather-like material from apples and pears, with physical properties comparable to those of animal leather. This could become an alternative to animal leather. The expected costs and the environmental impact of the process developed will be compared to the current production process of animal leather.

The Genk Art Academy and Mia-H (an incubator for fashion accessories in Hasselt) are using fruit leather to create everyday objects. BE Vegan, the organisation that promotes veganism, is supporting this project with the aim of showcasing it to the general public.

UC Limburg

Partners UC Limburg, Belcool bvba, Truilingen bvba, MIA.H nv, Instituut voor Landbouw-, Visserij- en Voedingsonderzoek, Standsbestuur Genk, BelOrta, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, BE Vegan, UC Leuven, UHasselt