Researchers Turn Fish Waste Into A Coffee-Scented Biofuel

Published: 16 December 2015

Before that beautiful salmon filet lands on your plate, a lot of less appetizing stuff gets stripped away: By one estimate, the global seafood industry produces 64 million metric tons of waste each year. A new study suggests a potentially sweeter fate for all those heads and guts: They can be turned into a coal-like substance called hydrochar, which could be used as fuel or added to soil to improve fertility and sequester carbon (Energy Fuels 2015, DOI: 10.1021/acs.energyfuels.5b01671).

A few years ago, McGill University graduate student Shrikalaa Kannan learned that the city of Gaspé, Quebec, which has a large fishing industry, prohibited local shrimp processing plants from disposing of seafood waste in municipal landfills. Although solid seafood waste can also be processed into fish meal for fertilizer and feeding livestock, such factories often generate complaints because of their fishy odor. Meanwhile, liquid seafood waste often ends up in the sewage system or in water bodies, where its high nutrient content can stimulate harmful algal blooms. The industry in Gaspé was looking for environmentally friendlier alternatives. Kannan, who was researching technologies to turn waste into biofuel, wondered if she could find a solution that could be used not only in Gaspé, but all over the world.

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