Are we wasting our waste?
With the rise of new technologies, organic waste has started a journey from costly by-product to valuable resource. But why does only 3% go on to become biogas and fertilizer? How can we increase the percentage?
20 per cent of norwegian waste is organic. Though volumes are high, valorisation is low. Illustration: Colourbox
From cost to resource
Waste and other residual materials from industries and households are of increasing value in today’s economy. Substances that have long represented a cost to the economy are becoming a valuable resource, due to changes in technology that enable a greater share of their potential to be extracted.
Are we wasting our waste?
Still, Norway incinerates almost 58 per cent of what is currently defined and registered as wet-organic and wood waste and use, by comparison, less than 3 per cent of these waste resources to produce biogas and fertilizer (Source: SSB/Statistics Norway). The manufacturing sector produced approximately 48 per cent of this waste, followed by households with only 25 per cent; and this constituted over 20 per cent of the total waste production Norway. The numbers do not include materials that are at present directly reintroduced into the natural environment, e.g. sludge from fish farms and waste dumped by fishing vessels. This shows that volumes are substantial while valorisation is low and points to the role of industrial sources.
The research project
The project «Sustainable path creation for innovative value chains for organic waste products" will address the potential for value added and improved sustainability in the valorisation of organic waste streams, residual feedstock and by-products (short: OW) – by analysing value chains inside and across different sectors of the bioeconomy. The project partners will analyse a number of industrial cases from different parts of the bioeconomy and collaborate with highly relevant industry actors (e.g. TINE, Cambi, Nortura/Norilia) and technology experts (e.g. Østfold Research, Forestry & Landscape, LTH). The project will hopefully help policymakers better govern and regulate the OW industry and the industry actors to identify and exploit new opportunities in the bioeconomy.
The work will be based on interdisciplinary collaboration between research groups specializing in innovation (NIFU, TIK, Circle, Centre for Innovation Research), environmental research (LTH, Østfold Research, Forrest & Landscape), value chain analysis and relevant technologies (DTU, NIFU, Østfold Research), located in Norway, Denmark and Sweden. The project will integrate multiple disciplines and theoretical approaches. NIFU will be project coordinator.