How many lives does an orange have?
The circular economy of Italy's most produced citrus fruit

There is an invisible thread that connects many of our small daily gestures. Drink a glass of fresh fruit juice to replenish energy. Spray the wrists with our favorite essence to face the day with confidence. Give yourself a respite from negative thoughts through an aromatherapy session. Three seemingly distant actions turn out instead to be deeply connected by one approach: “circular economy.” Two magic words that are finally revolutionizing the agrifood supply chain, prompting each company to employ advanced techniques and technologies, organized by cycles, that recycle production waste to generate green energy and give rise to new products, actively contributing to the well-being of the environment with a view to sustainability.

Photo: Sips of Joy

Waste is a valuable resource from which unexpected by-products can be created. And so it is that, starting from the perfect sphere of an orange, juices, nectars, quality juices and much more are produced. Peels and processing residues can be used for other applications and can also be recycled. Valuable essential oils can be extracted from the peels highly valued and sought after by perfume and cosmetic companies. Pulp processing residues, on the other hand, may be Used as livestock feed ingredients.

And if what has been said so far is not enough to surprise you, hold on to your hats: because in recent years, the circular economy of oranges has seen the emergence of highly innovative projects, among which are numerous Italian excellences. The most famous example is Orange Fiber, a Catania-based SME Producing sustainable textiles from citrus “pulp”, a by-product of the juicing industry that should be discarded as production waste. Carlo Ratti Associati Design Studio (CRA), in 2019, in collaboration with Eni, launched the Feel the Peel, experimental circular juice bar that accumulates peels waste from juices and dries them in order to create a bioplastic, from which compostable cups are 3D printed.

Photo: Andrzej Gdula

Another Italian excellence is
Gioia Succhi
, a Calabrian company partner of
Italian Agricultural Chain
. Gioia Succhi processes oranges, harvested within 30 km, with a view to short supply chain, to produce juices and juices including organic, preparations and essential oils, terpenes, aromatic waters and polyphenol extracts. The peels also become useful mush for the production of biomass. A perfect example of circular economy!

La Favini paper mill, on the other hand, with orange peels reduced to flour produces crush paper. E Bioclin, a cosmetics company, in collaboration with Slow Food Foundation, has created a shower gel using water extracted from processing.

In conclusion, an orange has many lives, or rather as many as we can still find applications for her. And let’s not forget that reuse alone is not enough for sustainability: in the circular economy, the approach of manufacturers, distributors and retailers is key to reducing resource waste.