From citrus peel to currant bun

Marjolein de Jong13 November 2018

‘Peel farmer’ and VU Chemistry alumnus Sytze van Stempvoort (24) has developed a sustainable initiative with his company PeelPioneers, which processes citrus peels into essential oils. These oils are then used to make currant buns, as well as orange soft drinks, chocolate and cleaning products. 

“The Dutch love their fresh-pressed juices, which translates into an enormous amount of orange peel. In the Netherlands alone, 250 million kilos of citrus peel are thrown away every year”, Sytze tells us over the phone. “They simply toss the peels into an incinerator, which is a huge waste, because you can still extract valuable resources from these peels. 

That is why he now has a waste processing company Renewi, formerly known as Van Gansewinkel, pick up loads of discarded citrus peels from supermarkets, hospitality businesses and catering companies, who are happy to work with Sytze thanks to the significant savings on processing costs. Sytze came up with the idea two years ago and has since managed to attract more than a million euros in investments.

His nickname ‘peel farmer’ refers to the peel farmers of the past, who would go door to door to collect fruit peels to feed their livestock. In some ways, this is not too far removed from what Sytze does today, because the peel remnants after processing by PeelPioneers are also turned into high-quality livestock feed. The company will soon be producing 40 tonnes of pulp daily, which can be used to supplement the feed for 8,000 cows per day. That’s not bad. 

We have one more burning question... Does he bring his orange peels to work after enjoying his fresh juice for breakfast? “Haha, no. That’s a little more effort than it’s worth. It’s all about processing peel in bulk. Luckily, I can count on my friends to joke about what I do: I’m always getting photos of someone’s orange peel!”