LIFE EBP addresses environmental problems in the sectors of municipal biowaste (MBW) management, agriculture and chemical industry by two core actions:
- prove process for production of new biobased products (BPs/IR) from MBW;
- prove BPs/IR as biofertilizers/agrochemicals, and BPs as bio-based speciality chemicals and biopolymers alternatives of commercial fossil-based products.
Municipal biowaste EU production is around 100 million tons per year including gardening residues and kitchen waste. Currently, MBW are treated in equal parts by controlled fermentation (that yields compost and anaerobic digestate), incineration, and/or landfilled, causing serious environmental problems.
The environmental impact of composting is mainly due to limited greenhouse gases (GHG) and volatile organics (VOC) emissions, and of digestate production stems mainly from ammonia emission and/or nitrate leaching due to application of digestate as fertiliser.
Incineration produces 2000-4000 tons per year dust and 154.000 tons per year other GHG and toxic organics, and landfill releases 11000 Mm3 per year of carbon dioxide and 14000 Mm3 per year of methane.
Currently, common agriculture practice is to boost plant production with mineral and organic fertilizer dose higher than adsorbed by soil and plant. Thus, noxious fertilizers’ components accumulate in soil, reach the food chain, leach through soil into ground water, and ultimately affect human and animal health.
The world consumption of mineral fertilizers containing N, P and K is around 200 Mt/yr, EU consumption is 16 Mt/yr. Depending on fertilizer dose, soil, and plant type, around 9.000 tons nitrate leach through soil and water every year.
Major organic fertilizers are composts of biowastes from various sources or come from fossil sources. They cause leaching of metal components through soil and water, 355.000 tons per year CO2 emission and depletion of fossil sources.
EU chemical industry produces 330 Mt per year synthetic organic chemicals from fossil sources to cover need for plastics and other finished products. Major concern is depletion of fossil source to produce fuels and chemicals and the increasing GHG emissions. Estimated CO2 emission from conventional EU chemical industry is 1037 Mt/yr.
In the case of plastics, a recent survey estimates that in 2019 plastics’ production and incineration added more than 850 Mt GHG to the atmosphere.
Surfactants are various chemicals used in the manufacture of many consumers’ products, such as detergents among the mostly used; surfactants are massively used daily, and most are dispersed in soil and water. Surfactants’ world production is over 13 Mt/yr, 3 Mt/yr produced in EU to cover consumption of over 4.2 Mt/yr detergents and 1.2 Mt/yr softener products. Concerns about their ecotoxicity arise from their tremendous daily consumption. Elevated concentrations of surfactants and their degradation products may affect organisms in the environment.