Study: EU waste could provide 16 percent of road fuel by 2030

By Anna Simet | February 28, 2014

According to a newly released study conducted by the International Council for Clean Transportation and the National Non-Food Crops Centre, if all sustainably available waste and residuals were converted to biofuels, it could supply up to 16 percent of the European Union’s road fuel by 2030.

Furthermore, this could result in greenhouse gas (GHG) savings in excess of 60 percent when taking a full lifecycle approach, up to €15 billion ($25.1 billion) in additional economic revenue and up to 300,000 additional jobs by 2030.

The study’s findings are based on conclusions of an expert panel made up of environmental NGOs, energy analysts and companies with direct experience in advanced biofuel technologies.  

On emissions, the study indicates the highest GHG savings result from use of municipal solid waste, in excess of 100 percent, due to potentially avoiding decomposition to methane in landfills.

The next highest GHG savings were found to come from ag residues, reaching 80 percent in cases where indirect emissions due to displacement effects can be minimized.

Though Europeans generate an estimated 900 million metric tons of waste paper, food, wood and plant material each year, the study recognizes that only a fraction of this can be considered available because of existing uses—for example, sawdust from timber production, which is uses to make products such as fiberboard. Therefore, only about a quarter of cellulosic material will be available for energy use between now and 2030, or about 220 million metric tons annually.

The study acknowledges that safeguards would be needed to ensure waste and residual resources are developed sustainably, including sustainable land management practices that maintain carbon balances and safeguard biodiversity, water resources and soil functionality.

While some combinations of feedstock and technology will require short-term incentives, the study says, others are close to being competitive and require little more than policy certainty.

The study also explores the role of policymaking and economic parameters.

Access a full analysis of “Wasted: Europe’s Untapped Resource” here