Substances found in autumn leaves - such as pigments, carbohydrates, and proteins - could in future be used in the cosmetics, textile and food industries. Stuart McDill has more.
STORY: It's not just green leaves that could be good for us. Scientists at VTT in Finland want to harvest what they see as a rich untapped source of natural raw materials.... the pigments, carbohydrates and proteins found in leaves - otherwise left to rot every autumn. SOUNDBITE (English) VTT SENIOR SCIENTIST, LIISA NOHYNEK, SAYING: "Those pigments they are really wanted nowadays because they are natural pigments. They could be used for colouring textiles, in cosmetics and also if we can pass the test for toxicity, then they could be even used for food, human food." They're developing a process to break down the leaves using a bio-reactor and solvent - eventually separating the pigment and compounds -- a method that could be adopted for textiles and cosmetics. SOUNDBITE (English) VTT SENIOR SCIENTIST, LIISA NOHYNEK, SAYING: "So far these natural colourants they are taken for example from carrots and algae and then microbes but this is a new kind of source of these pigments. They are also made synthetically nowadays, but it's more and more a way to get rid of the synthetic components and to use these natural ones." Other applications include inhibiting the growth of harmful microbes, food colouring, preservatives and even nutritional supplements. Today's compost - tomorrow's lunch.