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Separating eggshell and its membrane to turn eggshell waste into valuable source materials

Final Report Summary - SHELLBRANE (Separating eggshell and its membrane to turn eggshell waste into valuable source materials)

Executive Summary:
Agricultural waste management is one of the most emerging problems of food processors. The amount of the generated waste as well as the cost of waste disposal is ever increasing across Europe. For egg producers, to face the problem of the disposal of eggshell waste is a challenge.
Some egg processor pay hundreds of thousands of euros to get rid of their waste in landfills, while others process their eggshell waste by grinding and burn up to convert it into animal feed and low level products.
However, eggshell is a valuable source of other materials when the mineral shell and the inner membrane can be separated. Calcium carbonate from the shell itself can be used in paper manufacture, fertilizers or painting. But the most valuable part is the inner membrane because it can be a source of interesting products for pharmacy, cosmetics or medicine, mainly for its content on collagen and hyaluronic acid.

The aim of the ShellBrane project was to develop a method able to separate both parts and disinfect the membrane in an easy and environmentally friendly way.
The Consortium has developed a prototype able to process 60 kg/h of eggshell waste, producing both membrane and mineral shell with a high degree of quality. The system and prototype consists basically 3 steps accomplished by 3 modules:

• Separation module
Consists of a mechanical comminution step, followed by a density based system that separates mineral shell from membrane

• Disinfection module
The disinfection step is a novel conception in use for a non-aggressive sanitizing technology. This technology – which does not use high temperature to destroy microorganism – preserves the quality of the main components found in the membrane.

• Drying module
In the case of membrane processing, the drying is assembled jointly with the disinfection module and uses cold air instead of heating.
In case of mineral shells – where no sensible components were found – the system can use any heating system existing in the market.

Project Context and Objectives:
Agricultural waste management is one of the most emerging problems of food processors. The amount of the generated waste as well as the cost of waste disposal is ever increasing across Europe. Egg processors face the problem of the disposal of eggshell waste. According to EC regulations, industrial egg-shell is considered as hazardous waste and it is collected by national authorities. This can result in cost of the order of €100 000 per year in case of small or medium sized egg-processors. However, eggshell is a valuable source material or the additive for numerous branches of the industry, such as, among others fodder and fertilizer producers, paper manufacturers. Numerous types of collagens, hyaluronic acid or amino acids of interest may be extracted from the eggshell membrane and purified for numerous uses (e.g. dietary supplements, cosmetics), which makes the separated eggshell membrane a highly valuable material. This way the egg processors could avoid the cost of waste disposal, moreover they can make extra profit by selling their side product. The main goal of the project is to develop a method for the industrial-scale separation of avian eggshell and its membrane. This core process will be followed by a post-processing (e.g. drying, freezing, etc.) and packaging mechanism to make the way-to-market easy. This will provide an easy solution to the waste problem of egg processors and putting to the market a valuable raw material for the industry.
The ShellBrane project aims at increasing the competitiveness of SME participants by providing a cost-efficient and sustainable recycling solution for eggshell waste management. The SMEs have put together this project in order to gain knowledge and R&D resources to further exploit the possibilities in eggshell membrane and turn it into a marketable raw material for the collagen industry.

MARKET RELATED OBJECTIVES:
• To provide a scalable ShellBrane system for different capacity levels
• To achieve a market price for the eggshell membrane separation module (1 kg/min of eggshell processing speed)
• To produce eggshell membrane at a competitive price
• To effectively demonstrate the ShellBrane system by the means of field-tests for dissemination at the demonstration plant
• To validate the possible profit of egg processor companies using the ShellBrane system; in this way they can turn their expenses on disposal into income from the marketing of the eggshell membrane
• Disseminate the results confirming the return of investment for the end users by the long-term savings and extra profit
• Disseminate the overall economic and environmental effects of recycling the eggshell waste at a European level.

TRAINING, DISSEMINATION AND EXPLOITATION OBJECTIVES:
• To manage the foreground knowledge, as well as to protect and use the research results to the best advantage of the SME partners.
• To perform training and dissemination activities and to ensure that SME participants will be able to assimilate the results by working out an appropriate exploitation strategy.
• To provide a methodology as a tool for the technical SMEs enabling them to “adopt and adapt” the ShellBrane system (i.e. treatment specifications) to further target egg processors, during the post project phase ensuring better exploitation of the results.
• To provide the possibility for SMEs in the egg processor sector to reduce their cost and gain extra profit, which they can increase their competitiveness with.

SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL OBJECTIVES:
To answer the need for the development of a novel eggshell waste processing method the scientific and technological as well as the business related objectives are summarized below. The scientific objectives are to support the technological development to achieve the defined measurable objectives.

Scientific objectives:
• To provide optimized technical specifications for the separation of the eggshell and the eggshell membrane.
o To create a knowledge base on the physical properties of the eggshell-membrane adhesion
o To carry out experimental studies in order to find the most appropriate physical parameters of the treatment
o To create a knowledge base on the relations of the applied hydrodynamic processes and the adhesion between the mineral part of the eggshell and the eggshell membrane
• To present an efficient ultraviolet technology based method for the disinfection of the eggshell membrane
o To gain in-depth understanding of the disinfection process of the separated eggshell membrane
o To find the most appropriate UV source in terms of output irradiance and output spectrum
o To create a knowledge base on the most common infections in the eggshell membrane
o Investigation of the possible effects of UV energy on the quality of the extractable collagens
• To support the development by laying down the principals of each technological processes

Technological and application related objectives:
• To develop the membrane separation system, the additional high performance mixer and the membrane collection module (floatation filtration)
o To create the fluidic system that transports the eggshell waste through the separation chamber, the mixer and the membrane collection module
o To decrease the required power level by the adequate dimensioning of the treatment chamber
o To create the optimum mixing process to finalize the eggshell-membrane separation
o To develop the membrane collection module by the means of forced density separation
o To develop post-processing (e.g. drying)
• To design and manufacture the UV disinfection chamber providing a homogeneous exposure for the treatment of eggshell membranes
• To deliver a prototype integrating all components
• To validate the system in field tests at the facility of end users processing eggs

Project Results:
The Consortium has developed a prototype able to process 60 kg/h of eggshell waste producing both membrane and mineral shell with a high degree of quality. The system and the prototype basically consist of 3 steps accomplished by 3 modules:
• Separation module
Consists of a mechanical comminution step, followed by a density based system that separates mineral shell from membrane

• Disinfection module
The disinfection step is a novel conception in use for a non-aggressive sanitizing technology. This technology – which does not use high temperature to destroy microorganism – preserves the quality of the main components found in the membrane.

• Drying module
In the case of membrane processing, the drying is assembled jointly with the disinfection module and uses cold air instead of heating.
In case of mineral shell – where no sensible components were found – the system can use any heating system existing in the market.
A survey on market needs of the egg-processor sector and potential buyers of eggshell membrane was performed to obtain information necessary for the ShellBrane system specification. Based on the results, the system specification was outlined. In the system specification all parts of the ShellBrane system, i.e. the separation process, the disinfection process, the post-processing, the mechanical design and the overall requirements were specified according to the needs of SME partners. All major parameters were listed in detail for each step of the technology. The results of the survey have been taken into account during system development.

In parallel to the system specification laboratory trials were performed to define the best separation technique for separating eggshell membrane and the mineral shell. The ability of different mills and crushing equipment was evaluated. In order to improve the separation degree between the components, membrane and shell, other parameters were studied. Laboratory trials were also performed to define the disinfection parameters such as UV emitted power and time of disinfection, the trial confirmed commercial UVC neon tube lamps to be effective for the proper disinfection of the membrane. Microbiological analyses were conducted in parallel to supervise the bacteria killing rate. Eggshell membrane samples were analysed about their content to see the UV effects on valuable chemical components for the nutritional/cosmetic industries: Hyaluronic Acid (HA) and collagen. The analysis proved that the UV treatment is not harmful for the collagen and hyaluronic acid content of the membrane.
The development of the eggshell membrane separation system started in month 4. As a first step the separation system demonstrator and the scaled up equipment was designed. An experimental study was performed on the effects of the separation process and laboratory test measurements were carried out. All these tests helped to decide on the appropriate process and equipment needed for the correct separation. The eggshell waste should be crushed into a specific particle size and then membrane and mineral shell would be separated using appropriate turbulent flow, precise decantation system and correct recovering of the separated membrane. The separation unit prototype was constructed following the design. The separation unit development work included the investigation of environmental friendly solution for water re-using.
The parameters defined earlier were taken as basis to study the adaptation of the UV source to a preindustrial apparatus. Furthermore a study was conducted on the number of the lamps and their dimension, power on the amount of eggshell membrane that needs to be disinfected. The membrane disinfection subunit was developed based on the design having the following advantages: easy handling equipment, low production costs, low powering costs, low maintenance costs. Apart the electronic and mechanic realization, an efficient test neon methodology was developed to monitor the lamp failure status, so that the operator of the pilot plant is never exposed to danger because of the presence of the UV-C radiation.
The membrane dyer and mineral shell dryer of the ShellBrane system have been designed, developed and manufactured. The membrane disinfection and drying units were integrated into one combined unit proposed exploiting the floating of the eggshell membrane (ESM) under an air-flow at room temperature aimed to completely dry the membrane without adulterating their hyaluronic acid and collagen content. After the comprehensive search of commercially available packaging systems, the membrane packaging unit was selected.
The process control electronics was developed in order to make an intelligent system from the core technology components. The process controller hardware electronics are based on a programmable automated controller (PLC). The main concept of the PLC system has been developed and the appropriate modules were selected together with the detailed description of electrical connections and operation. The control strategy was implemented to the control software, manual and automatic mode was developed with emergency logging. The Graphical User Interface (GUI) was developed in close consistence with the control codes, important features of the GUI are the easy to use touch screen interface, multi-language support and parameter base.
After developing the sub-systems in previous work packages, the separation unit, membrane disinfection subsystem, control system, membrane and mineral shell drier units were transported to the installation site in Bábolna, Hungary. The pilot plant was installed, connected and tested during a technical workshop week with the aim to finalize the development of the prototype modules, find the possible inconsistencies and corrective actions. To assess the complete efficiency of the pilot plant, eggshell membrane samples were taken at different disinfection time in order to investigate the disinfection process of the disinfection unit. Microbiological analyses were performed on these membrane samples confirming the achievement of the disinfection level dictated by the European regulation (EC) 2073/2005. A search was conducted on collagen and hyaluronic acid extracting methods and laboratory trials were performed on extracting collagen and hyaluronic acid from membrane samples prepared by the ShellBrane system. The trials were successful and both collagen and hyaluronic acid was extracted.
The ShellBrane system was further tested and validated under real conditions at the installation site in Bábolna, Hungary. The performance of the system was measured and optimized. Eggshell membrane samples were prepared with different setups and UV treatment parameters for new microbiological analysis.

During the project meetings the RTDPs shared the result with the SMEs by facilitating the take-up of the knowledge gained among the SMEs. BDN was giving presentations on the separation unit, speeches of LABOR were on the membrane disinfection unit, while ATEKNEA presented on the membrane drying unit, the packaging unit, mineral shell dryer, the control system and usage of the control panel. The trainings were backed up not only by PowerPoint presentations but also with videos and live prototype demonstration to ease the take up of the knowledge.
The ShellBrane website was set up successfully at the beginning of the project. It contains a public part with major information of the project as well as a restricted area for consortium members with the possibility of up- and download documents and viewing restricted information. The website has been updated at every important project related event and important news but at least in every three months. The address of the website: https://web.archive.org/web/20190721001656/http://shellbrane.eu/.
The consortium management actions took place as planned: after establishing the channels necessary, communication has been running smoothly led by the project coordinator with the active involvement of consortium members. General project meetings have been organized on a six month basis, while technical meetings have been held every 3 months. Beside the meetings, some mutual partner visits took place and Skype discussions were organized. Continuous update and communication have been done on a regular basis towards the Project Officers.
During the M24 general meeting held on 9-10 April 2014 in Bábolna and Budapest, Hungary the consortium reviewed and discussed the project status as well as the performance and results. SME partners were very satisfied with the work of RTD partners, since the associated results were achieved, during the meeting evidences were presented and a live prototype demonstration underlined the fully functional SHELLBRANE system.

As a summary, the main results achieved are as follows:
• All necessary laboratory trials were completed
• The best separation method was selected
• The membrane disinfection method has been optimized
• The ShellBrane system was fully designed with the assistance of SME partners reflecting the content of the system specification
• All parts of the ShellBrane system constructed and successfully integrated
• The system was tested and validated at the installation site
• Microbiological analyses were performed on the separated, dried and disinfected eggshell membrane proving its collagen and hyaluronic acid content
• The capacity of the ShellBrane system reached the targeted level defined in the system specification

Potential Impact:
The commercialized result is the primary project foreground which is the complete SHELLBRANE system, based on a combination of physical separation methods, such as flotation filtration and streaming, and disinfection using ultra-violet irradiation and post-processing.
Further results cover results that may be subject to IP protection as secondary project foregrounds:

The ESM disinfection subunit, a UV disinfection subunit
Studies on the disinfection mechanism (D2.3) confirmed that solutions available on the market are the most technically effective and the most cost saving. The consortium put together the idea of combining the membrane disinfection and the drying unit (see in D5.1) this solution is innovative and the partners will keep the know-how as trade secret.

The ESM separation unit, an enhanced separation method using turbulent flow
During the continuous discussions partners expressed that they look at the separation unit as the core technology and the key novelty of the project, therefore SME partners are considering its protection with trade secret.

The process control system, control unit operating software
As the control unit is created based on available software application the unit is protected as a separate system component with trade secret.

Socio-economic impact and wider societal implications:
Egg is a basic food and approximately 25% of the egg consumption (called ‘in product’) people eat as ingredient in other dish, thus it has already been processed by food/agriculture manufacturers. According to the FAO statistics in the EU27 the volume of egg production reached 6.7 million tonnes in 2011 .
Throughout the past decade, annual egg production in the European Union has hardly changed fluctuating between 6.6 and 6.8 million tonnes. Currently, the egg industries in the Community are in crisis as earlier this year, it was claimed that producers in many of the 27 member countries had failed to conform to the ban on conventional battery cages, which came into effect on 1 January 2012. They were: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain.
The resultant possible culling of layers and the time lag involved in switching to less intensive production systems will guarantee that egg production in the Community will fail to reach recent levels. Indeed, it is considered that the shortfall could be somewhere between 15 and 20 per cent. To some extent this cut–back will be offset by gains in European countries outside the Community and in particular, Russia and the Ukraine. Nevertheless, it looks as though the total for Europe will contract from the peak of 10.5 million tonnes achieved in 2010 to around 10.2 million tonnes in 2012. Of the 6.7 million tonnes of eggs produced in the EU, about 1.8 million tonnes or 27 per cent are used by processors for the production of egg products. There are just over 100 processing plants in the EU, and according to Filiep Van Bostraeten, CEO of Ovobel Ltd, the proportion of eggs processed could rise to between 30 and 35 per cent by 2015. Some product users in the food industry are only using non-cage eggs to help boost the animal welfare–friendly image of their business and branded products.
On the other hand it is estimated that by 2012 consumption of eggs in further processed form used in bakery, confectionery products, sauces, pastas, other food and non-food products, will gain a market share of approx. 30% in the EU-27 , therefore the problem of eggshell waste is likely to increase thus increasing the need for a sustainable solution.
In 4th November 2013 the opportunities for the egg industry were discussed in the IEC Madrid Conference . Professor Hughes explained that the combination of difficult financial times; an increased awareness of the environmental impact of producing beef; people in developed countries choosing to eat less red meat as they age; and recent negative publicity, has all led to a decline in red meat consumption, but provides major opportunities for the egg industry. While the meat industry is facing increased pressures, Professor Hughes believes these factors provide a very egg-friendly environment. Shoppers are looking to reduce their grocery bills; there is strong interest in natural, lightly processed foods; and there is an increase in the trend to cook meals at home; all of which, according to David Hughes, are good news for eggs.

Perspectives and challenges for the EU egg sector
Pascale Magdelaine, ITAVI and Véronique Gonnier, CNPO raise the attention to the fact that egg producers in the EU must comply with new standards for layer housing. ITAVI and CNPO have carried out a short survey by questioning European experts in order to determine the changes in housing systems by 2012 and to provide some thoughts for the long term in order to enrich a French forecast driven by INRA, ITAVI and CNPO. The survey in eight important member states makes clear that considerable differences between countries exist.
For ten years and more, production systems within the EU have registered a strong diversification, with a switch from cages to alternative housing systems, due first to the new consumers’ expectations concerning animal welfare, and secondly to the European welfare regulation implementation.

Specific national regulations
Regulatory backgrounds and consumer demands are quite different in the member states and explain the various national shares of the different production systems. Germany and the Netherlands have better anticipated the 2012 deadline, due to specific national regulations and under the pressure of the retailers who have banned all cage eggs (including enriched cages).
In 2010, German eggs were already produced for over 90% in alternative systems while these systems in 2008 only represented 40% of laying hens. The share of alternative systems is expected to grow in all the countries. Higher growths are expected in the United Kingdom for free-range productions, and in the Netherlands for barn production. The Netherlands follows the same trends as Germany, but with a two years delay. The other countries, such as Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain are expecting a switch from conventional cages towards enriched cages rather than the barn system. In 2012, the share of alternative systems (codes 0-1-2) will grow in all the surveyed countries, and the share of cage systems will decrease from 43% to 13% in the Netherlands, from 78% to 66% in France and from 50 to 40% in the United Kingdom.

Thoughts for 2025 scenarios
Several experts underlined the high level of investments needed in order to fulfil the 2012 regulation and, in consequence, think that few changes will occur between 2012 and 2025 or only after 2020. Long term egg consumption is expected to be slightly higher or stable in 2025 because of good health and nutritional assets and less concerns about cholesterol. Processed egg products should take an increasing part in the total egg consumption (up to 35-45%, depending on the country), due to a general trend towards convenience food. The egg processing industry is expected to develop its supply in alternative eggs under the pressure of some users (food industry and catering industry) looking for a positive and animal welfare friendly image for their business and for their brand.

Import from third countries
Some experts anticipate that, by 2025, the egg processing industry could import the main part of its needs from non EU countries.
Although most of the experts questioned think the production units will keep concentrating, those production units will probably remain family farms and the growth of the average size will be limited by environmental constraints, in particular in the Netherlands and in Belgium. The contractual relations between the producers and their downstream partners (industry and retailers) should tighten. In the United Kingdom, where the structures are already strongly concentrated and integrated, this trend could be more marked. As it was explained by Karin Galloway in April 2013 each year, “an estimated 76 billion eggs are consumed in the United States. Prior to final consumption, about 25 billion of those eggs are first processed into egg products. The egg-processing plants must break those eggs before further processing occurs. In doing so, these plants generate an estimated 600,000 tons of eggshell waste per year.
It’s likely that processed egg consumption — currently 30% of all eggs produced — will grow due to increased demand for ready-prepared meals, cake mixes, fast-food and other food-preparation formats. While this is good for the egg-product processing plants, the disposal of eggshell waste is an ever-increasing problem.
Eggshell waste disposal can be costly. Medium-sized egg-product processing plants can generate as much as 7 tons of wet eggshell waste daily. These eggshells typically are centrifuged, but still contain moisture in the 14-18% range. Many egg-processing plants must rely on the costly hauling of this waste to landfills.
Moreover, while waiting for disposal, the messy holding containers exude an unpleasant odour affecting the work environment and neighbouring community. It is also not at all unusual that as local landfill sites close, egg processors end up hauling the eggshell waste to ever-more-distant landfills.
Smaller companies often compost their eggshell waste and spread it onto their crop growing acres. This method of recycling works until, as might be expected with a growing business, the volume of shell waste exceeds field capacity. The processor may then find itself facing the same costly hauling to landfill sites.”

Based on this current market situation the consortium SME partners believe that the exploitation potential can be exploited at two levels:
• After automatization and serial production they can target the market of SHELLBRANE machine buyers: egg processor companies, egg powder and liquid egg producers, pasta manufacturers, caterers, egg processors, pre-cooked food producers, pasta producers (1st scenario)
• After further research on membrane they can target the market of eggshell membrane users (buyers of the membrane raw material for collagen & hyaluronic acid): chemical and food supplement production plants, pharmaceutical and biomedical sector, cosmetics industry (2nd scenario). Materials to be gained from eggshell and products based from egg-shell collagen are collected as part of the market watch and detailed in Attachments 2 and 3 of Final PUDF. IMPULS drew a draft calculation on how much collagen and HA can be obtained from the membrane, market potential price of HA and collagen, market information about desirability of eggshell membrane products and what is the right way to go on. The SMEs believe that the potential of selling collagen is huge. It is possible to obtain about 4 g of collagen from 1 kg of membranes, because the most of collagen is impossible to free from proteoglycan complex. ~96% of collagen is insoluble.

List of Websites:

https://web.archive.org/web/20190721001656/http://shellbrane.eu/