Why bother with biowaste?
Keeping biowaste out of landfill is a lot of work: you have to separate it from other types of waste, collect it, transport and process it – all costing time and money. So why bother?
In the SCALIBUR research project we are doing all of these things. And here’s why.
- Putting biowaste in landfill is a terrible idea
Unlike other types of waste, biowaste decomposes. This may sound like a good thing but is actually detrimental for the environment.
As biowaste breaks down it releases methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in terms of climate change effects. Estimates show this accounts for 3% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
The decomposition of biowaste also leads to pollution, as local water and soil can be contaminated.
On top of this, landfilling is surprisingly expensive. Landfill taxes vary across the EU, but we know that total costs of management exceed €1 billion a year.
Despite this, 40% of EU biowaste still ends up in landfill.
- It’s too valuable to throw away
Biowaste contains valuable nutrients and energy that can be put to other uses.
Commonly biowaste is burned to produce energy. In some instances it is turned into compost. This can be done easily enough in the garden at home, or via community composting schemes.
Alternatively biowaste can go through some kind of industrial process. Using techniques like anaerobic digestion, you can turn biowaste into a higher quality compost, and also capture biogas, which can be used to generate electricity or heat.
In SCALIBUR we go a step further. Using state of the art technologies we will show how biowaste can be turned into higher value products such as plastics and pesticides.
- It can replace fossil resources
The ‘bioeconomy’ is booming as we look to reduce our dependence on fossil resources.
Abundantly available biowaste could be an excellent raw material for bio-based products. It is preferable to many other sources of biomass which could be better utilised as food or feed.
The biotech industry is catching on to this and technologies are being developed and optimised to convert biowaste.
Persuading consumers that food packaging and other products made from biowaste are safe and desirable is a challenge, but the potential is there.
By demonstrating the full value chain from biowaste collection through to end products, SCALIBUR is showing the way and can lead a revolution in biowaste recycling.