Design and tools for the transformation and valorisation of agro-industrial waste for Made in Italy industries
Authors: Elena Cioffi, Barbara Pizzicato
Abstract: Responding to a sustainable production is an imperative that is gaining more and more relevance in the definition of specific programs and strategies at national and international level. This urgency leads towards zero waste and circular models and processes that minimize the extraction of resources from the biosphere and do not create waste; instead, when the waste of natural or anthropogenic transformations cannot be avoided, their valorization as resources must be carried out. The development of integrated supply chains, knowledge transfer between different disciplines and the dialogue between research and industry becomes fundamental for the achievement of these objectives. Existing studies in the literature regarding the agri-food production chain in Italy show that the sector, whose environmental impacts are by no means marginal, is fragmented in many small production companies; an interesting and critical aspect at the same time since the generation of waste is not accompanied by an appropriate dissemination of data at a quantitative-qualitative level and there is no clear regulatory framework available on alternative management and valorisation methods. Design, given its natural inclination to transversality, allows to trace scenarios in which to configure, through interdisciplinary approaches, the sustainability models that are intended to be covered in this contribution. Moreover, its methods and tools allow to develop a critical thinking starting from the very early designing phase. The paper addresses the valorisation of agro-industrial waste in a circular and systemic perspective through the presentation of a review of case studies from the textile supply chain, which is one of the most relevant for Italian industry.Due to its disastrous environmental impact, the global textile industry is today the subject of extensive research aimed at the development of innovative materials and processes in order to overcome the traditional linearity of the textile supply chain. The negative impacts of the textile industry are distributed along the entire value chain and are mainly attributable to greenhouse gas emissions -for which the textile industry represents the fifth manufacturing sector- consumption and pollution of water resources and the production of textile waste. In particular, the production of synthetic fibers, which is estimated to be almost two thirds of the global fiber production, is associated with a high use of non-renewable resources and emissions, which derives from the extraction of fossil fuels. In this sense, the valorisation of agro-industrial waste as secondary raw materials and new sustainable inputs for the textile supply chain, represents an opportunity not yet fully explored, in particular as regards the development of a new generation of fibers, yarns and eco-compatible fabrics alternative to the materials currently in use. Bio-based wastes and by-products from agri-food industry could as well present enormous potential for valorisation in the textile finish due to their intrinsic properties (antimicrobial, prebiotic, antioxidant activity, among others). At present, nevertheless, textiles from agro-residues do not completely meet the requirements to make them an attractive replacement for conventional fibre sources. Future research should therefore focus on identifying new agro-residue based blends that offer both performance and sustainability, adopting a systemic design approach based on interdisciplinary and interconnections as a strategy for innovation.
Keywords: Sustainable Design, Made in Italy, agricultural waste valorisation, circular economy, textile sector
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