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Supporting the Trend toward Plant-Based Foods while Incorporating Circular Economy Practices

To address the need to efficiently and effectively feed a growing global population, as well as help fight climate change, conserve land and water use and improve food security, the United Nations has recommended decreasing global meat consumption. Plant-based foods and sustainable animal-sourced food could free up several million square kilometers of land by 2050 and cut 0.7-8.0 gigatonnes a year of carbon dioxide equivalent, according to the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Ashland has developed an innovative plant-based, meat-alternative food product to help address global food needs. Benecel™ MX modified cellulose (methylcellulose) is a cellulose-based product specially formulated for meat-alternative and vegetable-based applications.

Benecel™ MX can provide a firm bite for products meant to simulate meat products like sausages, meatballs and ham, binding to replace eggs, and can help retain moisture to provide an enjoyable eating experience.

Additionally, at its Benecel™ MX manufacturing site in Belgium, Ashland has taken steps to decrease the environmental impacts of its operations through initiatives that have helped reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and conserve water at the facility.

The manufacturing processes for Benecel can require a significant amount of steam. Instead of burning gas to generate steam on-site and adding an environmental burden, Ashland worked with a neighboring facility that produces a large amount of surplus steam through its waste incinerator processes to create a steam network that has resulted in reduction of burned gas and fewer emissions to the environment.

Overall, the project will provide a GHG reduction equivalent to the energy from 50 windmills, helping Ashland meet it 2020 environmental goals of 10 percent energy reduction and GHG emissions.

The facility also generates wastewater with high salt content, which must undergo on-site biological treatment before being released into the local river. Ashland set an agreement with an adjacent site to receive their rainwater and water drainage and added these new water sources to its on-site rainwater collection points to help treat salty wastewater streams.

The amount of water sourced this way is estimated at 64,000 cubic meters per year, equivalent to 26 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

About the Author
American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council’s mission is to advocate for the people, policy, and products of chemistry that make the United States the global leader in innovation and manufacturing. To achieve this, we: Champion science-based policy solutions across all levels of government; Drive continuous performance improvement to protect employees and communities through Responsible Care®; Foster the development of sustainability practices throughout ACC member companies; and Communicate authentically with communities about challenges and solutions for a safer, healthier and more sustainable way of life. Our vision is a world made better by chemistry, where people live happier, healthier, and more prosperous lives, safely and sustainably—for generations to come.

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