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SUFACHAIN-related research in the local news: Cosmetics without microplastic: Are walnut shells the solution?

15 November 2023

Prof. Bockmühl, microbiology researcher under the SUFACHAIN project, recently gave an interview about the use of walnut shells to substitute microplastics in cosmetics, which was published in an article of the German newspaper NRZ.

Under SUFACHAIN, Prof. Bockmühl and his PhD candidate Binal Dobariya from Rhine-Waal University together with two German SME partners are doing research on the feasibility of ground walnut and apricot core shells as exfoliating particles to replace abrasive synthetic particles (‘microplastics’) in the cosmetic industry. Their research aims at contributing to improved walnut and apricot value chains through the better use of waste streams. Learn more about the objectives of this work package here.

In a recent news article in the German newspaper NRZ, Prof. Bockmühl elaborates on this research and how it relates to the wider project. So far walnut shells and apricot kernels are often considered a waste product in the local walnut and apricot value chains in Central Asia. At the same time, ‘apricot scrub’ already exists as a product at the local and regional markets as a peeling product. Now, with the recent EU microplastic ban, these products become also attractive for the EU market. Microplastics can be found in toothpaste and facial peeling products and function as mechanic cleansing. The challenge to substitute these plastic particles with walnut or apricot core shells lies in their sharp edges (especially the walnut shells) and the question of how to microbiologically pre-treat the shells to ensure their safe use in cosmetic products. To use them in bio-cosmetic products, this means that radiation is not an option for treatment. To ensure applicability in practice, Prof. Bockmühl and his colleagues closely collaborate with cosmetic manufacturer bb med from Kalkar and A+S Biotec from Völklingen.

One concrete objective of the research project is to establish a pilot plant in Central Asia to ensure research findings are being linked to practical innovations. However, this is yet the beginning of the research phase, while market implementation of these products may take another five to ten years, thus going beyond the project’s lifetime. This initiative will also not solve the microplastic problem in Europe, Prof. Bockmühl emphasises, which comes to much larger extent from tires and sports fields. But it is a step in the right direction.

Read the full (German) article: