Coupling Waste Feedstocks to Microbial Protein for a Circular Food System

Research output: NRELPresentation


The global food system is responsible for approximately 34% of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and up to 85% of water consumption. This critical sector suffers from intensive and inefficient land and water use, the generation of multiple (solid, liquid, and gaseous) waste streams, and high fuel, fertilizer, and pesticide consumption. The production of waste-derived microbial protein (MP) represents a promising alternative for reducing the environmental impacts of protein production relative to conventional agriculture. MP can be mass-produced in volumetrically scalable cultivation processes on short timescales, enabling facile up-scaling with lower greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and water impacts than animal and, in some cases, plant protein production. MP can also be produced from waste feedstocks, diverting waste from landfills or the natural environment. Here, we present the availability and suitability of waste feedstocks for MP production, as well as the fermentation and downstream processes required to convert MP into human food products. We discuss the challenges and opportunities facing waste-derived bacterial MP and highlight key areas for innovation in both the microbiology and process design space for a more sustainable and circular food system.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the Materials Research Society (MRS) Fall Meeting and Exhibit, 26 November - 1 December 2023, Boston, Massachusetts

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-6A20-88093


  • decarbonization
  • food
  • life cycle assessment
  • microbial protein


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