Thursday, October 01, 2009

Converting garbage into biofuel may cut CO2 emissions by 80 percent


Scientists in Singapore and Switzerland have suggested that converting the trash that fills the world’s landfills into biofuel could cut global carbon emissions by 80 percent. Biofuels produced from crops have proven controversial because they require an increase in crop production that has its own severe environmental costs.

However, second-generation biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol derived from processed urban waste, may offer dramatic emissions savings without the environmental catch. Converting the rubbish that fills the world’s landfills into biofuel may be the answer to both the growing energy crisis and to tackling carbon emissions. New research published in Global Change Biology: Bioenergy, reveals how replacing gasoline with biofuel from processed waste could cut global carbon emissions by 80%.

Biofuels produced from crops have proven controversial because they require an increase in crop production which has its own severe environmental costs. However, second-generation biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol derived from processed urban waste, may offer dramatic emissions savings without the environmental catch.

“Our results suggest that fuel from processed waste biomass, such as paper and cardboard, is a promising clean energy solution,” said study author Associate Professor Hugh Tan of the National University of Singapore. “If developed fully this biofuel could simultaneously meet part of the world’s energy needs, while also combating carbon emissions and fossil fuel dependency.”

“If this technology continues to improve and mature these numbers are certain to increase,” concluded co-author Dr. Lian Pin Koh from ETH Zürich. “This could make cellulosic ethanol an important component of our renewable energy future.”

Data from the United Nation’s Human Development Index and the Earth Trends database was used to arrive at an estimate of how much waste is produced in 173 countries and how much fuel the same countries annually require.

The research team has calculated that 82.93 billion liters of cellulosic ethanol can be produced by the available landfill waste in the world and the resulting biofuel can reduce global carbon emissions in the range of 29.2% to 86.1% for every unit of energy produced.

Reference: Wiley - Blackwell (2009, September 29). Is Garbage The Solution To Tackling Climate Change?. ScienceDaily.

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