FriendlyKnife on the CORDIS

We are pleased to inform, that information about our project was published as the CORDIS article.

Turning beer waste into eco-friendly knives and forks

The FriendlyKnife project is developing a process that could turn brewers’ spent grain into fully eco-friendly cutlery – perhaps proving that drinking may be good for the environment.

Many of us have already used eco-friendly cutlery: whether it’s single-use bamboo or wooden knives and forks or recyclable plastic spoons and the like, these objects have become the preferred choice for various food outlets all over Europe. Some of the single-use solutions available on the market still contain polylactic acid (PLA) and crystallised polylactic acid (CPLA) – compounds that require the use of industrial composting facilities to ensure they are biodegradable. Enter the EU-supported FriendlyKnife project, whose aim is to use beer waste to produce cutlery that is fully biodegradable and compostable. As project coordinator (and FriendlyKnife board member) Joanna Krajewska puts it: “We want to develop a product that can literally decompose in your garden.”

Strange brew

When beer is brewed, one of the key residues produced is brewers’ spent grain (BSG), which constitutes approximately 85 % of the total by-products of the brewing industry. FriendlyKnife’s goal is to use BSG as the basis for creating a mixture that could then be used to produce single-use cutlery items. At first glance, the production process behind the mixture looks straightforward: spent grains are wet, so they are pressed under very high pressure before being mixed with other (natural) ingredients to produce a unique mixture that is then moulded. “Naturally, the devil is in the detail,” Krajewska explains. “We have to find the correct shape for the mixture and make sure the production process is adapted to it in order to create the items we have in mind.”

Beer coasters and beyond

So far, the project has achieved the goals it had set under the Phase 1 stage, namely creating several mixtures and selecting (after proper testing) the one best adapted for future cutlery production. FriendlyKnife has prepared samples that have been tested to check how they behave in terms of fragility, flexibility and strength, and is now close to being able to produce beer coasters. This is an essential first step towards producing fully fledged cutlery items as well as plates and cups further on down the line. Producing cutlery is tricky however and often requires the addition of PLA and/or CPLA to be completed successfully. But Krajewska is confident her team will be able to manufacture cutlery items without any addition of PLA or with the smallest amount possible to create a genuinely eco-friendly product. Though the goal of producing these more elaborate items is ambitious, FriendlyKnife has already attracted the attention and support of major beer producers. “They confirmed that our idea fits perfectly with their market needs,” Krajewska says. “Our next aim is to further perfect the production process while fine-tuning the design of our products.”

What is brewing for the future?

The products now need to be tested in real conditions. The next phase in the project aims to further refine the production process, making it even more attractive to stakeholders. Krajewska and her team are also keen not to forget what she calls the ‘final link’ in the chain of users – meaning you and me. “We also plan to conduct some tests ‘on humans’ further down the line,” she concludes.

FriendlyKnife accesses tailor-made business opportunities with AB InBev

On 19-20 February 2020, companies supported under the European Innovation Council (EIC)  had the opportunity to accelerate their business collaborating with AB InBev, the world’s leading brewer and one of Europe’s biggest food and drinks companies. AB InBev opened its doors to 32 SMEs to pitch and present their business cases at the group’s Global Innovation and Technology Center (GITEC) in its home city of Leuven, Belgium.

EIC Corporate Days are tailor-made and highly effective acceleration services to facilitate collaboration between large corporates and EIC-funded SMEs. Nearly 100 senior leaders within AB InBev welcomed startups and scaleups that provide innovative technologies in circular economy, smart energy, urban mobility and digital solutions. The European innovators expanded their network and took the chance to leverage their business in 87 one-to-one meetings with AB InBev’s GITEC and Europe leadership team.

FriendlyKnife shared its vision for single-use cutlery made out of brewer’s spent grain, that can help to reduce plastic waste in our environment.

Jean-David Malo, Director of the EIC, opened the first Corporate Day of 2020: “Today we’re turning ideas into reality. Financial means are not enough in today’s market, we also offer other means for our startups to scale up. In this aspect contact with large businesses is crucial. It is a win-win situation: the startups can create cooperation and connections, while the business can identify new emerging technologies.”

At the event Cybelle Buyck, Vice President of Legal and Corporate Affairs for AB InBev in Europe, commented: “We are thrilled that with the EIC we can bring these startups together, which in turn brings bright ideas and further collaboration. This isn’t just beneficial for us, but for many companies in Europe and the wider enterprise ecosystem. This way we can all continue to innovate, improve and be even more competitive in the future.”

Yousef Yousef, board member of the EIC: “The main advantage of the EIC is the fact that we are providing ‘smart money’ for our start-ups. Coaching, corporate days and a large network to learn from. It is really an incredible programme.”

We’re very happy to have participated in this matchmaking day promoted by the EIC pilot business acceleration services. We believe our solutions are aligned with the business of Galp and we hope the connections we made can help us scale-up our business.

The purpose of the EIC Corporate Days is to promote business between big corporates – which are always looking for innovative solutions to improve their products and services – and the SMEs funded by the EIC pilot.