Turning food waste into green beauty

Over 90% of the world’s mandarins are grown in China. It is estimated that the mandarin canning industry generates 10 million tonnes of waste peels every year, which are incinerated because they don't biodegrade easily.

Through research led by the University of Leeds, food processing waste, such as canning water, is now being developed into eco-friendly packaging, sustainable cosmetics and other high value commercial products.

The Citrusafe project, funded by the the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Innovate UK, and the Newton Fund is led by Professor Caroline Orfila in the School of Food Science alongside a team of interdisciplinary academics.

The project collaborated with industry partners BioPower Technologies Ltd, Keracol Ltd and Parkside Flexibles Ltd. Harnessing this industrial expertise, the project was able to utilise mandarin canning waste and peels as a source material for a wide range of high-value products, such as a replacement for animal gelatine and food grade films for soft fruit cartons.

The project has also led Keracol Ltd, a University of Leeds spin-out company, to use the peels, which are rich in essential oils, bioactives and colours, as part of their Dr. Craft range of cosmetics to create sustainable skincare that breathes new life into otherwise unused ingredients.

Dr. Craft was founded by Leeds academics Professor Chris Rayner and Professor Richard Blackburn. To extract the ingredients from mandarin peels, Dr. Craft soak the peels in a solvent least likely to generate waste or by-products. This solvent is then recycled, and used for further extraction. A one-year study to evaluate the biodegradability of the leftover peel after extraction demonstrated that the processed peels are highly biodegradable, in contrast to the fresh peels after they have been removed from the fruit.

Each product range typically undergoes two years of research, innovation and development to ensure its quality.

Both Dr. Craft’s founders focus their academic careers on sustainability, so they encourage sustainable habits throughout the lifecycle of the products; the outer packaging, along with the glass bottle and label can be disposed of in domestic recycling.

In 2019, they were winners of the Sustainable Beauty Awards ‘Best New Product’ and in 2020, were awarded the title of ‘Best Sustainable Cosmetic Product Company' in the Global Excellence Awards. The Bakuchiol Face Cream was most recently shortlisted in the Pure Beauty Awards 'Best New Natural Face Product' category.

Dr Craft is a collaboration between Ellipsis Brands & Keracol Limited.