Australian researchers find possible re-use for wine waste

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 19th September 2016
Grape Waste

A Swinburne University team has discovered a way to re-use the large amount of plant waste often left over from producing wine.

According to the team, grape pomace, which is the skins, pulp, seeds and stems remaining after grapes have been squeezed for juice, is of limited nutritional value. Because it is unsuitable for pet food and degrades too slowly to be used as compost it often ends up in landfill.

However, the Swinburne team, working with CSIRO, has developed a technique for converting the waste into compounds which may be used as biofuels or medicines.

The conversion process also extracts tartaric acid which can be re-used in the winemaking process.

Tartaric acid is one of the biggest costs to winemakers and recycling it should help significantly reduce production costs.

How the conversion process works

  • Four fungi are used in the process and a 30-minute heat-activated pre-treatment breaks down the biomolecules
  • A bioreactor containing the fungi takes three weeks to break down the biomass
  • The breakdown results in alcohols, acids and simple sugars which could have industrial and medical applications.

Lead researcher, Professor Enzo Palombo, said the technique used in the laboratory can be scaled up to an industrial level.

“Our newer modified process involves a simplified and rapid extraction method that can be performed on-site, thus recycling waste directly back into the winemaking process,” he said.

New South Wales based Southern Estate Wines will now be working with Swinburne University to further its research into recycling wine waste.