Correspondent's Choice

This story about farm waste was published by EurActiv on 23rd September 2010.

Collecting agricultural residues could prove a lucrative business for Europe’s farming sector if EU policy were to offer the right incentives for using biomass to produce biofuels.

Harvesting agricultural residues that are normally left to rot in fields and turning them into next-generation biofuels could generate up to €31bn for the EU economy by 2020, according to a new study released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance last week (14 September).

Moreover, it could revitalise the ailing farming sector by generating up to a million man-years of employment across the 27 member states over the next decade, most of them in rural areas, it said.

The report, supported by Danish biotechnology giant Novozymes, estimates that the 27 EU member states will have somewhere between 250 and 300 million tonnes of agricultural residues to convert into bio-products if current land use patterns are retained.

The greatest biomass supply potential lies in Europe’s agricultural powerhouses France and Germany, the report states. Central and Western European member states as a group contribute about a quarter of the total potential, it adds.

Wheat straw, sugar beet residues and barley straw will be the top agricultural contributors to the EU’s biomass potential up to 2020, it states. Agriculture would supply 80% of these biomass residues, complemented by forestry and municipal solid waste.

If most residues were collected instead of being left to rot in fields, they could be processed into 75bn-90bn litres of next-generation ethanol, Bloomberg estimated.

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