Excess Materials Exchange

Case Study: Can we squeeze more value from an orange peel?  


May 25, 2020




In this series of articles we highlight some of the companies that took part in our pilot program and the results of our matchmaking services. For the full report, follow this link.


What is more delightful than a fresh orange juice? For Excess Materials Exchange (EME) it is to find a higher value reuse option for its peels! Are you curious to discover the range of circular reuse opportunities for orange peels and their environmental and financial benefits? Let us take you through the circular reuse options of orange peels. 

Current end-of-life scenario of orange peels 

Everyday, Sodexo the Netherlands squeezes about 139 tonnes of oranges resulting in an organic waste flow of roughly 77 tonnes of orange peels. These orange peels are collected by a logistics company and then transported to an anaerobic digester facility to produce biogas. This current-end-of-life scenario has some environmental benefits, since biogas can be considered  a replacement for natural gas. 

Circular match

The EME starts by giving resources an identity in the form of a Resources Passport.  Orange peels are composed of flavedo (the orange outer layer) and albedo (the white inner layer) which both have significant opportunities for reuse.  The flavedo contains fragrances and oils, whereas the albedo contains cellulose and fibres. 

Based on this material composition, EME identifies potential reuse opportunities for such materials. We found three innovation partners in Europe which can process orange peels in a more circular fashion: 

  1. Spaak, uses supercritical CO2 gasification to extract limonene, 10-fold citrus oil and pectin from orange peels. After that, the waste stream of this process can be sold as high quality cattle feed. 
  2. Peel Pioneers uses supercritical H2O gasification to extract 10-fold citrus oil and limonene. The waste stream of this process can also be sold as high quality cattle feed.
  3. The Italian company Orangefiber was identified. The company extracts cellulose from citrus fruits to create polymers which can then be spun into yarn from which clothing can be produced.

After selecting an innovation partner, we calculate the financial and environmental benefits of the high value reuse option to guide decision-making.


The business case of reusing orange peels to produce oil, limonene, and cattle feed is significant. Indeed, current processing costs of one tonne of orange peels ranges between €40 and €50 while the identified innovation partners either take the oranges for free or for a maximum of €20 per tonne of orange peels, leading to an instant cost reduction of 50%.


The environmental business case is also promising.  The new reuse scenario would lead to a 105% reduction in emissions. The alternative scenario also presents a decreased impact in fertile land use (130% change), and human toxicity (191% change). 

A great method to translate environmental impact into financials is eco-costs. Eco-costs represent the costs associated with prevention of the environmental burden of a product. This burden consists of e.g. environmental pollution, material depletion related to the production, transportation and end-of-life treatment of a product. Right now, the eco-costs are classified as 'external costs', since they are not yet integrated in the current costs of production chains. EME has worked with EY to develop a Total Value method where we add the eco-costs to the financial value, this way the actual costs of a product can be calculated. We’ve done a comparison below.

For Sodexo’s orange peels, the Total Value per tonne of oranges is -€277.19. This means the environmental burden outweighs the financial value of the product. In comparison to the proposed circular match the Total Value is -€113.08 per tonne of orange peels. This is an increase in Total Value of €164.11 per tonne. 

Key takeaways

We see that by giving resources an identity in the form of a Resources Passport we can unlock new circular opportunities. Moreover, these new opportunities have a positive financial business case and significantly reduce the environmental impact of orange peels. Lastly, there are already many organizations with innovative and scalable technologies on the market to give resources a new high value destination. And what is even more interesting is that EMEs’ database of potential new matches for materials and products grows day by day. Together we work on speeding up the transition to a circular economy. 

Curious about our 4D Matchmaking service, or want to implement your own digital marketplace to exchange materials and products? Contact us at info@excessmaterialsexchange.com or explore our services at: www.excessmaterialsexchange.com




Excess Materials Exchange (EME) is a young and innovative technology company. On our digital matching platform, we find new high-value reuse options for materials or (waste) products for companies. We believe that far too many valuable resources and materials are wasted or ill-designed in the current paradigm, for which the planet must pay a heavy price. Isn’t that a waste? EME is determined to accelerate the global transition to a circular economy – and play a part in creating a more viable planet. By showing the financial and ecological value of materials. By challenging companies to design and produce their goods in a more efficient and circular manner. And by making matches. A whole lot of matches.