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Exploring waste streams for cholesterol

Published: 12-11-2015, | Member: Dishman Netherlands

In an effort to meet a growing demand for cholesterol, Dishman Netherlands is looking for animal-based waste streams that can serve as a resource of the substance. Wool grease, the only stream from which cholesterol has been isolated, is becoming more scarce. Aside from its application in the synthesizing of vitamin D, cholesterol is used as an additive to fish feed and in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. 

Mark Ipema, Executive Director at Dishman Netherlands, predicts a steady increase in the market for cholesterol as an additive to salmon, eel and sea bass feed. “Farmed fish is an efficient source of protein and fish will comprise a bigger proportion of our diet in the years ahead,” he says. “Farmed fish will be a key part of the effort to feed the growing world population. Fish can be farmed sustainably. They’re cold-blooded, their feed to food ratio is high, their CO2 emissions are low and farming can be done in ways that respect the fish’s welfare.”

Most farmed fish are currently fed fishmeal from commercially caught fish. It takes about five kilos of fish to produce one kilo of farmed fish. Adding cholesterol to the fish feed makes it possible to increase its plant-based content and reduce its fish content, and hence the number of fish that need to be caught.

Waste Stream

Cholesterol is a necessity for animals and humans alike. Our bodies use cholesterol and sunlight to produce vitamin D. Dishman Netherlands has developed a method to isolate cholesterol from wool grease, a waste stream from the wool industry. That is why the Dishman factory in Veenendaal is located next to what used to be The Netherlands’ largest wool factory. Dishman uses cholesterol to synthesize vitamin D and vitamin D analogues.

Worldwide demand for wool has declined steeply over the past decades, which has led to far smaller sheep stocks and lower availability of wool grease. This has sent the price of cholesterol skyrocketing. Ipema: “That’s why we’re looking for other sources of cholesterol. Currently, we’re investigating how to isolate this substance from the waste streams from the meat processing industry. Waste stream processing is becoming increasingly important there too.”

Dishman is collaborating with Wageningen UR and Imares to explore applications of cholesterol isolated from these animal waste streams. This involves paying close attention to food safety and other legal requirements.

“Sustainability is a prerequisite for our survival. It’s becoming more of an issue for our customers too. We’re taking part in a Food Valley NL Leaders in Ambition program aimed at cradle-to-cradle thinking. This Circular Economy project helps us take the next step and meet new business partners. Dishman is aware that when you start working more sustainably, it takes a while to get a return on investment. We need to change the system. I’m convinced we can’t continue to exhaust planet Earth,” Ipema says.

Dishman Netherlands is part of the Dishman Group, an internationally active group of companies serving the worldwide pharmaceutical industry. Dishman Group employs 65 people in The Netherlands. With an annual production of 500,000 kilograms of cholesterol, Dishman Netherlands is the world’s largest cholesterol producer.

Dishman Netherlands