Linking value-added chains: SUBWEX

Linking value-added chains: innovative process for the extraction of bioactive components allows re-use of plant components for the paper industry

In today´s production and marketing of food and cosmetics there is a strong trend towards replacing synthetic preservatives with natural substances to meet current market and societal trends. Furthermore, consumers expect not only the product to be “green”, but also its production process.

The CORSubwex_05_LaborNET project SUBWEX (subcritical water as a green solvent for the extraction of plants) is investigating a plant extraction method that is solely based on water and referred to as subcritical water extraction. It uses no chemical solvents associated with negative health and environmental effects. When water is heated above 100°C and maintained in a liquid state under pressure, its polarity decreases. Moreover, subcritical water can act as an acid or basic catalyst during chemical reactions.

Subcritical water extraction gets us one step closer to a green preservation method for food and cosmetics

Subcritical water conditions make it possible to extract two types of valuable chemicals from vegetal materials like oat hulls or apple pomace: antioxidants that can be used as food additives or cosmetic ingredients to inhibit oxidation; and antimicrobial substances that can be used as preservatives in foods and cosmetics. Various tests have shown that the use as food and cosmetics additives can create substantial added value, in particular when it comes to high-quality cosmetics and green, organic products that are mainly produced by SMEs.

Integrating a green extraction process in a pre-existing value chain: papermaking

Subwex_02_Refiner_Rückstand_GerstenstrohThis alone would be worth intense research. However the sustainability of SUBWEX goes beyond that point because the materials left after extraction are generally suitable for replacing part of the conventional fibrous raw materials in papermaking. Papermaking has become much less profitable in the past decade because of increasing raw material prices and the growing competition for wood fibre feedstock. New functionalised paper products could help to slow down the progressive take-over by digital media, and to meet customer demands for green lifestyle and convenience products. Within the scope of the intended development, one could for example imagine a cereal product being sold in a carton partially made of cereal straw. It is mainly SMEs that are expected to include such speciality paper products in their competitive product portfolios.

Business potential in the field of green cosmetics, nutraceuticals, food supplements and paper production

The concept developed in this project can be expected to generate significant profits. The new technology links agriculture with the food, cosmetics and papermaking industries, thus opening up attractive new business areas for SMEs, start-ups and established companies in these sectors. The results represent a unique approach to add value to agricultural and food-processing residues and go far beyond the state-of-the-art in biomass use.

FoSubwex_03_Meetingr more information visit

Contact person: Dr. Wolfram Dietz, PTS – Papiertechnische Stiftung, Tel: +49 89 12146 279, Email:


Participants from Germany

PTS – Papiertechnische Stiftung, Munich – Coordinating Association
PTS PTI – Papiertechnische Stiftung – Papiertechnisches Institut, Munich – Researcher
PTS IZP – Papiertechnische Stiftung – Institut für Zellstoff und Papier, Heidenau – Researcher

Participants from Belgium-Wallonie

CELABOR – Scientific and technical services centre for food technologies, packaging, environment, paper and Textiles, Chaineux – Association and Researcher

Participants from Poland

GCC – The Association West Pomeranian Cluster “Green Chemistry”, Szczecin – Association
ZUT – The West Pomeranian University of Technology, Szczecin – Researcher


©pictures: PTS, ZUT