By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On June 6, 2017, Neste, a member of BRAG, announced that it would direct a large amount of its resources to researching waste and waste raw materials. In the future, Neste aims to produce biofuels and bioplastics from waste and residues, as well as utilize waste plastics as a raw material. Currently, waste fats and residues from meat and fish processing industries, as well as used cooking oil, account for nearly 80 percent of the raw materials in Neste's renewable products. The aim of investing in the research venture is to find increasingly lower grade waste and residue raw materials that have no other significant uses, such as residues from the forestry industry, algae, and waste plastics. The same NEXBTL technology that allows Neste to refine low-quality waste fats into high-quality fully renewable fuel can be used to produce other renewable products, such as aviation fuel and raw materials for bioplastics.
On June 9, 2016, European Bioplastics (EUBP) announced the support of a European Parliament (EP) report emphasizing the role of bioplastics in the creation of a circular bioeconomy. The report, produced by Italian MEP Simona Bonafè¨, outlines legislation that is needed to use waste more efficiently to create bio-based materials. Increasing the value of waste by promoting its use to create other bioproducts will help shift the linear bioeconomy to a circular, more efficient, bioeconomy. The report suggested defining composting and anaerobic digestion of organic waste as recycling, and requiring the collection of biowaste by 2020 in order to increase organic recycling of biowaste to 65 percent by 2025. On June 15, 2016, the EP debated possible new definitions of litter, with the intent of reducing both land and marine based litter by 50 percent by 2030.
On November 12, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other environmental and scientific experts to create the Nutrient Recycling Challenge (NRC). The competition was created to develop technology to recycle nitrogen and phosphorus from the more than one billion tons of livestock waste that is produced annually. The NRC is made up of four phases, allowing innovators to turn concepts into designs, and designs into working pilot projects used by participating farms. Phase I includes a $20,000 cash prize that can be split among up to four semi-finalists. It began on November 16, 2015, and will end on January 15, 2016, with semi-finalists announced in March 2016. Semi-finalists will also be invited to a two-day partnering and investor summit in Washington, D.C. and will gain entry into the next phases of the challenge. The phases will continue with larger awards being distributed until final awards are announced in January 2017, and the pilot project will be started.
On September 7, 2015, Clean Technica published a conversation with Novozymes CEO Peder Holk Nielsen about opportunities for growth coming from the upcoming COP 21 Paris climate talks. Nielsen expressed a desire for a form of taxation or limits on carbon emissions to be put in place over the next 10 or 15 years. In the future, Nielsen sees biofuel production becoming more sustainable as people turn to waste biomass rather than producing biomass. The increasing use of waste biomass is an opportunity for Novozymes to deploy enzymes that are capable of converting waste biomass into biofuels in a cost effective and efficient manner. Novozymes is a global biotechnology company with a focus on industrial enzymes, microorganisms, and biopharmaceutical ingredients and is a Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) associate member.
BETO is hosting a workshop on November 5, 2014, in Arlington, Virginia, to address challenges in converting waste food products to energy. The workshop will gather experts in the field to identify technical barriers to the commercial development of liquid transportation fuels from waste feedstocks, which will ultimately help develop a roadmap that highlights the key pathways and metrics to reaching commercialization. Registration is free, but space is limited. More information is available online.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has guaranteed a $105 million loan through Bank of America, N.A. to help Fulcrum Sierra Biofuels build a plant in McCarran, Nevada that would convert municipal waste into renewable jet fuel. The total project cost is expected to be $266 million and the plant is predicted to produce 11 million gallons of fuel per year. This loan was guaranteed as part of the Biorefinery Assistance Program that is included in the Farm Bill. The biorefineries are expected to reduce dependence on foreign oil, improve the environment by reducing greenhouse gas, and strengthen local economies. More information on this loan guarantee is available online.
On August 28, 2013, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) and the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) sent a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy urging EPA to (1) issue quickly a final rule clarifying how biogenic carbon emissions will be treated under Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V permitting requirements and (2) determine that biogenic carbon emissions from municipal solid waste (MSW) should be categorically excluded from the new PSD and Title V greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting requirements. A copy of the letter is available online. In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia vacated EPA's rule temporarily exempting bioenergy and other biogenic sources of GHG emissions from the new GHG permitting requirements, which has created uncertainty for the industry going forward. BRAG's report on this decision is available online.
In their joint letter, SWANA and NSWMA argue that emissions from the biogenic portions of MSW should be permanently exempted from the new GHG reporting requirements in part based on EPA's recent calculation of the lifecycle GHG analysis of landfill gas as a renewable fuel feedstock. Under this analysis, EPA "assumed that the biogenic portions of MSW (which produce the biogas) pose no land use-related GHG emissions associated with its production and use as a fuel feedstock." In addition, the groups state subjecting the biogenic emissions to the new reporting requirements could deter renewable fuel production and progress on projects designed to promote the beneficial use of landfill gas and energy.
On August 1, 2013, over 100 groups sent a similar letter to EPA urging the Agency to find that bioenergy and other biogenic sources of GHG emissions are carbon neutral for purposes of new GHG permitting requirements under EPA's Tailoring Rule. More information on this letter is available online.
Unilever announced this week its new partnership with the University of Liverpool for a three-year research project designed to develop renewable chemicals "from the surplus sugars, fats, oils and carbohydrates produced via commodity by-products and forestry wastes, creating a cent[er] of excellence in the identification of sustainably sourced ingredients that it is hoped will end up in the production of some of the world's most familiar brands." The company's press release on the partnership is available online.