Bioeconomy 5 min

The NoAW project receives an enthusiastic response from scientists in Korea

In October 2021, Nathalie Gontard was invited to present the NoAW (No Agricultural Waste) project during an international scientific event on waste management and valorisation, organised in Seoul, Korea. The attendees were particularly enthusiastic about the project’s potential regarding the manufacture of biodegradable and recyclable plastics from agricultural waste.

Published on 16 December 2021

illustration The NoAW project receives an enthusiastic response from scientists in Korea

This year, the ‘Nature’ conference in Seoul, South Korea, was devoted to the management and valorisation of waste to ensure a sustainable future. This hybrid event brought together a large panel of speakers who included Nathalie Gontard, in her capacity as coordinator of the NoAW project. An INRAE Research Director in the Agropolymer Engineering and Emerging Technologies Unit in Montpellier, Nathalie was invited to present the project’s results, particularly regarding the production of biodegradable plastics. “Plastic waste is a major issue, not only in Korea but throughout the world” explains Nathalie Gontard. “Discussing the development of innovative solutions was therefore one of the principal objectives of this important international event”.

During her presentation, Nathalie Gontard described the processes developed by NoAW which can transform agricultural waste into high value added bioproducts. She has drawn on her fifteen years of research in the field of packaging, as well as the work carried out in the context of the EcoBioCAP project she had previously coordinated and which focused specifically on biodegradable plastics.  

Bacteria can transform agricultural waste into biodegradable and recyclable plastics

“The two-stage anaerobic digestion process we have developed with NoAW can produce green energy, biofertilisers and effluents containing high levels of volatile fatty acids”, explains Nathalie Gontard. “We use these fatty acids to cultivate the bacteria that will transform them into reserve polymers (polyhydroxyalkanoates, or PHA). The bacterial polymers are then mixed with lignocellulosic residues – for example, shredded vine shoots – to reduce the environmental and economic cost of the resulting materials and adjust their functional properties, such as permeability to water or oxygen”. Unlike standard plastics made from petrochemicals that can last for hundreds or even thousands of years in the environment, these “green” polymers degrade within one or two years! Furthermore, they can be reused and recycled:  “Our research has shown that we can use renewable resources that are not in competition with food resources in order to rapidly produce biodegradable materials (thus of environmental value) which are also recyclable, and thus of economic value.” 

Future collaboration

The experts at the conference gave a very positive reception to the new opportunities offered by NoAW in terms of implementing an integrated and cross-disciplinary approach of innovative ecodesign (technical, socioeconomic, health, etc.) that can even predict the environmental and societal impacts of its processes. As a result of the conference, Nathalie Gontard is now organising collaborative work with Polytechnique Montreal (Canada) in order to apply approaches similar to NoAW to the development of new biodegradable electronic materials which can reduce the environmental impact of new digital transition technologies.  

For more information

The NoAW project (2016-2021) for which Nathalie Gontard was awarded the Stars of Europe Prize on 2 December 2021 involved 32 multidisciplinary academic and private sector partners from Europe and China working to achieve “zero waste” in agriculture. How? By designing new ecologically efficient approaches that can reduce environmental impact and benefit the economy and society by converting agricultural waste into green energy and biobased products.



Nathalie Gontard research directorAgropolymer Engineering and Emerging Technologies - IATE (INRAE, Institut Agro, Université de Montpellier)



Learn more


Reconciling the development of cities with their environment

If developing cities in harmony with their environment rather than at their expense is the challenge, a more frugal economy based on the sustainable use of living resources and the recycling of organic waste is part of the answer. INRAE has mobilised all its research capacity to re-think the way society produces, processes, recycles, takes territories in account, and helps pave the way to smoother transitions. This transformation must make cities more resilient in the event of upheaval and crises while ensuring sustainable development in the areas they impact.

02 July 2020


Nathalie Gontard, the total package

Nathalie Gontard, research director in the Agropolymer Engineering and Emerging Technologies Unit at INRAE Montpellier, receives the 2017 Scientific Breakthrough Award. She is all wrapped up in the future of packaging. Concerned with the amount of plastic waste accumulating in oceans and on land, she invented innovative biodegradable packaging materials and is looking for ways to anticipate the impacts it will have over its lifecycle. Inspired by techniques discovered over the course of her travels, Nathalie has always been looking far afield and into the future.

22 December 2019


Valorizing urban biowaste locally: conclusive results of the European DECISIVE project

PRESSE RELEASE - Biowaste, food waste and other natural biodegradable refuse make up a third of French household waste. This biodegradable waste is a potential source of energy for producing electricity and heat but can also provide a wealth of products with high added value for farmers. While all households are expected to be able to sort biowaste* at the source by late 2023, the European multidisciplinary project DECISIVE has focused on developing micro-scale anaerobic digestion (AD) in urban areas. Coordinated by INRAE, this programme, launched in 2016 with 14 partners** in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium and Denmark, has led to full-scale testing of efficient micro-AD units at local level, capable of producing both energy for local use and a biopesticide for farms. From an environmental and socio-economic standpoint, the results of the project, which will draw to a close in late October 2021, brings the prospect of a concrete roll-out of a circular system within reach.

19 October 2021