Unwanted Biomass Residues are an Asset in Biochar

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Agricultural residue or agricultural waste is not waste, it’s an asset. Because of biochar it’s now valuable! 

Biochar is a substance that resembles charcoal that is produced from biomass and is sustainably sourced from agricultural and forestry waste. These can be from corn stalks, hulls, wood chips and much more. Check out our blog on “What Materials Has ARTi Successfully Pyrolysed (Turned into biochar)” at the following (Link). But is it really “waste”? Are they only agricultural residues? 

Firstly, due to the scale of our civilization and the growing human demands, there is more production of everything. This would for sure certainly include agriculturally grown food. More production means more waste, or unneeded materials from the process. That’s the nature of production. 

Did you remember that potato plants have stalks and green leaves? The potato part we eat is just part of the root system in the soil. The stalks and leaves of potato plants for example have little use. Potato plants even generate flowers. Potato flowers, anyone? 

The global potato industry is enormous, producing 376 million metric tons in 2021. (Potato News Today, Jan. 21st, 2023). This is humongous. So, there’s going to be a lot of unwanted biomasses generated.

If the excess biomass from only the potato farm industry were left to decompose and release CO2, it would be another case of our civilization emitting enormous amounts of CO2

There is a better way called Biochar. 

We can transform this surplus of unwanted ag residues into a high-value product – biochar. Biochar captures the CO2 that would have been released during decomposition, trapping it for centuries. When unwanted ag residues are processed into biochar, they become a new material with numerous soil health benefits.    

Have You Heard of the Circular Economy? 

In the current system, we take resources from the Earth, turn them into products, and then eventually discard them as waste. Contrarily, in a circular economy, waste generation is avoided altogether. The circular economy is a framework for systems-level solutions that addresses issues including pollution, waste, biodiversity loss, and climate change. The three guiding principles of the circular economy are to reduce waste and pollution, circulate goods and materials at their highest value, and rejuvenate the environment.

In a circular economy, manufacturers design products for reuse. Electrical items, for instance, that have designs that make repairs simpler. In addition, products and raw materials are recycled as much as feasible. Using recycled plastic to create pellets, for example, to create new plastic items.

Biochar is well suited for circular economy-based environmental management due to several of its properties.

  • Pyrolysis of biomass residues supports environmental sustainability. 
  • Biochar is a cost-effective alternative to activated carbon as an absorbent or filtration medium. 
  • Zero waste and cost-effective environmental management are achievable with biochar.
  • Biochar can improve the carbon cycle by trapping CO2 instead of allowing it to be released via decaying plant matter. 

 

Creating a “circular economy” is becoming more popular, focused on reducing waste through effective planning. Biochar, a versatile resource for waste reduction and boosting the effectiveness of the circular economy, has recently gained attention in the environmental sector. It has shown potential for reducing environmental impact, combating climate change, and developing a successful circular economy model.

Aren’t we really just talking about recycling? What’s the difference? 

Recycling transforms waste into valuable resources. Everything depends on the perspective we take on the world. By seeing waste as an asset, its value can be maximized. Additionally, the growing amount of waste on land and in our oceans is one of the largest problems we are now facing. Recycling comes into the picture at the end of a product’s life cycle. How much of this now useless material can find new life in something else? While recycling is unquestionably important, we also need to make sure that materials and products are made to be reused. 

How is biochar “circular”? Aren’t you just finding a new use for unwanted agricultural residues, i.e. recycling? 

True. However, it is how you think of it. When the resulting residue biomass is considered at point of production and a system has been put in place to collect, process and then apply the biomass-to-biochar then this is more than just recycling. Of course, this is easier said than done. Have a look at our blog article “ARTi Team Sequesters +10 Tons of CO₂ in One Trip!” (Link). You can see we are beginning to hold some territory in terms of biochar for the circular economy. We will absolutely have more on this topic in the future. 

 

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