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☁️ "From Biowaste to “Biogold”"

Catalyst with Shayle Kann

Photo by Zlaťá / Unsplash

Host: Shayle Kann
Guest: Julio Friedmann | Chief Scientist | Carbon Direct
Category: ☁️ Carbon Reduction | Biomass

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Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[4:10] JF: “Out of all the CO2 that circulates through the carbon cycle, a relatively small fraction of it actually goes into and out of biomass. One of the things that people need to remember is that carbon goes into biomass, but it also comes out of biomass. And it's not just if it catches fire or dies. Things respirate, it's a very complicated system. But it still represents a pretty small fraction of the total carbon cycle. It is, however, much larger than what is in the atmosphere. So the goal here is: can you take some of the CO2 that's in the atmosphere, put it into biomass and either keep it there, or ultimately use the biomass like a conveyor belt to take it to the lockup, take it to geological storage?”

[5:03] JF: “In a natural carbon cycle before human beings, biomass was a wash. Essentially, it was in equilibrium. Carbon would go in, carbon would go out. Human beings started chopping down trees a long time ago, we started burning them for fuel. We started deforesting for agriculture and so forth, that released those carbon stocks and put it into the atmosphere. But it is still the case that broadly, the biosphere is a wash. Carbon goes in and carbon goes out. It is our actions that take it out of the biosphere.”

[6:35] JF: “Mostly, […] we're talking about plants when we talk about biomass. And mostly we're talking about fairly big plants that are durable on a plant life cycle, but not necessarily durable on a geological time cycle. So things like oak trees, or things like chaparral scrub, or things like grass and grasslands […]. And we use them in different ways. And they represent different climates, ecosystems and so forth. That's why it's all complicated.”

[8:36] JF: “ First of all, people are interested in waste biomass, because there is a limit to land, and ocean, and nutrients, and these other things. So one of the challenges in biomass [is that] there are trade offs between the natural world and agriculture. And if you want to grow forests, they are in competition with where we grow food. […] If you use waste, it kind of sidesteps that whole issue. Second of all wastes are wastes. They are things that we are currently throwing away. So if you can use that it is not a strain on natural ecosystems. And many of those wastes end up in the atmosphere. So if you can keep them out of the atmosphere by using them in some way, they are automatically sort of, they're born purer than other kinds of biomass for our purposes.”

[9:25] JF: “There's basically three main categories of bio wastes. Forestry waste: these are things like barks and twigs what the forestry guys call, slash, dead trees. […] There is agricultural wastes: everything from almond pits to walnut husks to corn stover to waste straw. And then the last is municipal solid wastes, effectively trash, and that includes everything from the food you throw away to the plastics you throw away. And all of those are considered biomass that is a waste today. […] A study we did is on the order of 2.5 to 5.5 billion tons of CO2 could be removed by just using that waste.

[15:13] JF: “One of the questions that comes up when you talk about biomass in energy or in carbon removal is what's the preferred use. So a lot of people, for example, think that burning it for electricity ain't a great use, because we have lots of options for electricity. Perhaps we should focus instead on things like sustainable aviation fuels, where we have much fewer options and where biomass can provide a greater benefit for something that's harder to decarbonize. And so we will ultimately start hitting limits of feedstocks and land. We need to ensure and work against things like food fuel competition. And so being mindful is the solution there.”

[35:43] JF: “The total mass of plastics produced every year is about 1 billion tonnes. So the entire plastics market is barely climate relevant. So if you're thinking about something that can deliver a big climate solution, bioplastics isn't it. You cannot balance the atmosphere’s needs on making yoga pants and hoodies, […] but that's okay. It is positive, not just for climate, if you can do that a little bit, it is also positive to get people in the game. If people want to start virtue signaling by buying plastic bottles made out of recycled plastic, or out of bioplastics made from the air, that's a way for them to start paying attention to this topic overall and growing interest. It's a bank shot. It's not directly tackling climate challenges. But I do think these things matter at the end of the day.”

Rating: ☁️☁️☁️☁️

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify | Google
🕰️ 41 min | 🗓️ 06/09/2022
✅ Time saved: 39 min

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