Despite the slowing birth rates throughout developed nations, the world’s population continues to grow. Advances in technology and medicine have contributed to longer life spans, inflating population numbers even further. Unfortunately, at the rate that we are consuming resources, this growth is unsustainable.

As such, over the past few decades, we have been looking for new solutions to create a more sustainable environment. Recycling waste material is one such solution and a few enterprising minds got the idea to try and recycle wood and food waste into xylitol.

Xylitol is a naturally occurring alcohol found in most plant material, including many fruits and vegetables. It is extracted from birch wood to make medicine. Xylitol is often used as a sugar substitute in “sugar-free” chewing gum. Certain cooking and baking products use xylitol as a sugar replacement as well.

Originally, xylitol can be obtained from raw materials such as wood or corn. However, companies such as Xilinat have been looking at more sustainable ways to produce the alcohol. Instead of extracting the substance directly from plants, Xilinat’s products, which are made with 100 per cent xylitol, converts agricultural waste into this natural sugar substitute.

The product looks and is said to taste like normal sugar yet is low in calories. It has been reported that foods containing xylitol instead of sugar reduces the chance of dental cavities. Additionally, the lack of authentic sugar and lower calories have led many to believe that xylitol is a good replacement for sugar for those suffering from diabetes; although there is insufficient scientific evidence  as of now to state this as fact.

Every year, millions of tons of agricultural wastes are incinerated by small scale farmers which release CO2 into the atmosphere. In Mexico, where Xilinat is based, this practice creates 40 per cent of the CO2 generated in the country. To reduce CO2 emissions, Xilinat purchases and collects agricultural waste from small scale farmers and transforms it into a natural sweetener.

The purchase of the waste prevents burning and helps the environment, along with human exposure to the associated harmful pollutants. The farmers also get to make a decent amount from selling their waste products as well.

As the need for more sustainable replacements for our everyday use increases, who knows what new innovative ideas that entrepreneurs might come up with to resolve our resource scarcity issue in the future?


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