Smarter and more efficient use of biomass – referred to as ‘cascading’ - can lead to an almost 30% reduction in European greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared with 2010. As the study ‘Cascading of Biomass, 13 Solutions for a Sustainable Bio-based Economy’ makes clear, cascading of woody biomass, agricultural and industrial residues and other waste can make a significant contribution to a greening of the economy. With the thirteen options quantitatively examined annual emissions of between 330 and 400 Mt CO2 can be avoided by making more efficient use of the same volume of biomass as well as by other means. 75% of the potential CO2 gains can be achieved with just four options:
- bio-ethanol from straw, for use as a chemical feedstock
- biogas from manure
- biorefining of grass
- optimisation of paper recycling.
Some of the options make multiple use of residues, with biomass being used to produce bioplastics that after several rounds of recycling are converted to heat and power at the end of their life, for example. In other cases it is higher-grade applications that are envisaged: more efficient use of recyclable paper and wood waste, in both economic and ecological terms, using them as raw materials for new paper and chipboard rather that as an energy source. Finally, by using smart technologies biomass can be converted to multiple products: biorefining of grass, for example, can yield an efficient mix of proteins, fibres, sugars and biofuels.
The study was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure & Environment (I&M). The report on cascading is a follow-up to a joint study by PBL and CE Delft earlier in 2012.