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Biorefineries to bet on a circular future without waste

In 2022, Earth Overshoot Day arrived on July 28, according to the organization Earth Overshoot Day. That date marks the moment in which humanity has exhausted the natural resources generated by the planet available for the entire year. Since the 1970s, a dangerous trend has followed: it is arriving earlier and earlier. We consume above the capacities of an ecosystem that we squeeze and leave in the red. Wouldn't it be important to put efforts into making the most of those resources?

According to the first meaning of the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, 'take advantage' means "to use something usefully, to make it profitable or to get the most out of it." All sectors and all examples enter this path in the search for maximum use; for example, the paper industry.

Before joining Cefic (European Chemical Industry Council), the manager of a sector group dedicated to chemicals of biological origin, Bernard de Galembert, worked at the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), where the transformation is supported of the European pulp and paper industry as an integral part of the bioeconomy. "If we take wood from the forest and only use the cellulose to make pulp and paper, what do we do with the rest? In single-product facilities like this, more than 40% of the wood is thrown away," explains De Galembert.

The solution has a name: biorefinery. "It's like in a farm model: in the pig we give value to all the parts and we don't waste anything, there is no waste. With the biorefinery what we do is value everything that is in the biomass as best as possible," details the expert. .

These types of facilities stand as a key element towards circularity to optimize energy and material consumption, and make the prefix bio- an imperative: biorefinery, biomass, biofuels, bioproducts. In Spain and Europe, emphasis is placed on cutting-edge projects to develop their full potential and try to solve the challenges of scaling them.