From waste potatoes to aquavit

There is a special law in Norway that regulates the use of waste potatoes for starch and alcohol. The law has been in effect over the last 30 years and it is a unique arrangement for the potato industry in Norway. This arrangement named Avrensordningen for potet aims towards the full utilization of Norwegian waste potatoes from production, processing, and sales.

Today 26 companies nationwide are approved for selling their waste potatoes through this arrangement. Eight of these companies are located in the NPA region. The companies get into the arrangement through a three-year contract that stipulates the conditions for delivering waste potatoes. Yearly the contracted volume is about 45 000-50 000 tons waste, that includes waste potatoes, potato pieces, and starch water from potato processing. However, the waste volume fluctuates from year to year depending on the yield and climatic conditions. The contract regulates that it is possible to send up to 20 % more than the initially contracted volume. The price is negotiated annually in the Agricultural Negotiations that take place between the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the two farmers’ associations.  The price depends on the dry matter content/starch content of the potatoes and this year it was notably increased.

This case is a very good example of circular economy utilizing the full potential of the whole potatoes. From the waste potatoes, they produce starch and alcohol, where about 20 000 tons goes into the alcohol production. The overall process is completed through Hoff, an agricultural cooperative owned by more than 500 potato farmers throughout Norway and producer of a wide range of potato food products. All the waste potatoes are transported to Hoff industries for further processing.

The starch is produced through a process of shredding and cleaning to retrieve the starch and then proceeds to a drying process to potato flour. Potato flour is utilized in a range of different food products such as minced meat or fish. Some of the flour is further processed to extract the glucose that is utilized both in candy production, as well as in pharmaceutical industries. The alcohol is processed through a similar initial process, freeing the starch from the waste potatoes, and then distilling it to rectified alcohol (96%). This alcohol is sold to various alcohol producers that use it as a base to produce aquavit, gin, or vodka. The waste material from processing starch or alcohol is utilized either as feed or as soil improvements.

Without this arrangement, there would probably be major environmental and market consequences. Between 45 000 and 50 000 tonnes of potato waste would have to be handled differently, thus giving rise to several challenges. For one, potato leftovers and waste is organic waste material and therefore have to be treated as a special waste. In addition, there would be an increased risk of spreading potato diseases. The arrangement is therefore socially responsible, economically profitable, and environmentally sound, for the farmers, industry, and society.