These practices have detrimental effects on our environment, cost an increasing amount of money and is quickly becoming one of the world’s biggest problems. Instead of burying the problem or turning it into carbon dioxide, there could be solutions to turn waste into everyday consumer products. Only the use of new technologies will allow us to bridge the gap between economic growth and environmental sustainability in the long run, and bio refineries could be today’s solution to bringing waste back into the production stream. The biorefinery solution helps to mitigate the threat of climate change whilst supplying the seemingly boundless demand for energy, fuels, chemicals and materials.
The bioeconomy, or (the bio-based economy), refers specifically to the use of biotechnology and bio-based materials in the manufacture of products. The bio economy’s purpose is to reduce waste and to conserve non-renewable resources, however end products aren’t the only focus of the bio economy. For instance, biorefineries use agricultural, forest, and municipal waste instead of crude oil to produce fuels. While the process might require advanced technology and further exploration, it serves as a shining example of how the bioeconomy can contribute to a sustainable future.
Bio based industries sit on the threshold of the next step of their evolution. A recent report by the World Economic Forum says second generation biorefineries will operate on a large commercial scale in just a few years. Industrial Biotechnology can then move beyond its ‘beta’ stage. This is big news in support of sustainable and renewable products and energy.
Industrial Biotechnology has the potential to move the treatment of urban organic waste up the waste hierarchy, transforming a disposal problem into a valuable raw material and a secure source of sustainable chemical feedstocks. Biological technologies such as enzymes and micro-organisms can convert heterogeneous biowastes into homogenous intermediate chemicals such as sugar and methane gas. These can then be fermented or chemically converted to polymers, fuels and chemicals.
Existing oil-refineries around the world turn crude oil into heavy and light oil fractions which are used to make chemicals and fuels such as petrol, diesel and jet kerosene. Biorefineries employ a wider scope of technologies to accommodate raw materials such as forestry and agricultural residues and municipal/industrial wastes to produce fuels and chemicals or products that are better than those manufactured today. This is achieved by having a much smaller impact on the environment, consuming less energy and water resources and without impacting global food supply.
The ability to use waste in biorefineries will be essential to the adoption of second generation biofuels. The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is working towards making this concept a reality, CPI look to develop biorefining as part of a profitable future and can provide open access facilities that can be used to prove bioprocesses on a pilot and demonstration scale, helping companies to build a business case for investment into production facilities of their own.
CPI has a twelve year track record in the development and commercialisation of biotechnologies and is bringing together knowhow in waste-processing and bio-processing for scaling-up key enabling technologies that convert waste streams into bio-based value chains. This can drive sustainability in the chemical industry whilst addressing a major societal challenge.