16 November 2018 by Joshua Doherty

Recycle wood first, says Committee on Climate Change

Waste wood should be “reused and recycled wherever possible” before being used as a biomass feedstock, a high level report for government said this week.

The recycling emphasis came as part of a report yesterday (16 November) from the Committee on Climate Change, which advises the government.

In its report “Biomass in a low carbon economy”, the Committee said: “End-of-life solutions that prevent or delay the release of CO2 from waste wood disposal
back into the atmosphere are important for maximising the lifecycle greenhouse gas benefits of timber construction. Waste wood should be reused and recycled wherever possible, followed by use for energy generation with BECCS as soon as this technology is available.” [BECCS is: bioenergy with carbon capture and storage technology.]

Graphic showing carbon movements (source: Committee on Climate Change report)

Other calls in the report include moves to a separate collection of food and other biodegradable waste across the UK, alongside introducing measures to ensure that no biodegradable wastes such as food, wood and garden should be sent to landfill by 2025.

Sustainable

The report explained that sustainably sourced biomass can play a key role in the UK meeting environmental targets such as emission and decarbonisation levels.

However, it outlined that the government must improve governance over biomass feedstocks, and its long term “should be dependent on the success of these efforts”.

The Committee argued that “There is significant potential to increase domestic production of sustainable biomass to meet between 5% and 10% of energy demand from UK sources by 2050. The lower end of this range can be delivered by fully exploiting the UK’s organic waste resource (after reduction, reuse and recycling) whilst maintaining today’s level of agricultural and forest residue use.”

And, it urged government to “Ensure food and other biodegradable wastes are collected separately in all areas across the UK and then used in line with the waste hierarchy (i.e. prioritising reuse and recycling). By 2025 no biodegradable wastes such as food, paper, card, wood, textiles and garden waste should be sent to landfill.”

Technology

It touched on the need for more technology, with carbon capture and storage (CCS), which can prevent emissions, and gasification often quoted.

It said that the government should “not provide further policy support (beyond current commitments) to large-scale biomass power plants that are not deployed with CCS technology.”

Waste wood’s contribution to bioenergy has been rising with increases likely in coming years

It also called for the government to limit support for bioenergy use in buildings to biomethane produced from anaerobic digestion, creating a demand for UK sourced food and garden waste.

‘Significant role’

In reaction to the report, the Wood Heat Association explained that the report shows the importance biomass heat production will hold in the future.

Neil Harrison chair of the Wood Heat Association, said: “Decarbonising heat in the UK is one of the biggest challenges we face, with around third of our emissions coming from heat alone… the CCC’s latest report demonstrates that biomass should play a significant role in a future low-carbon economy.”

The full biomass report can be read here: https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/biomass-in-a-low-carbon-economy/

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