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Harmonising conflicts between science, regulation, perception and environmental impact: the case of soil conditioners from bioenergy

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>02/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Environment International
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)52-67
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


As the global population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, humanity needs to balance an ever increasing demand for food, energy and natural resources, with sustainable management of ecosystems and the vital services that they provide. The intensification of agriculture, including the use of fertilisers from finite sources, has resulted in extensive soil degradation, which has increased food production costs and CO2 emissions, threatening food security. The Bioenergy sector has significant potential to contribute to the formation of a circular economy. This paper presents the scientific, regulatory and socioeconomic barriers to the use of the nutrient waste streams from biomass thermal conversion (ash) and anaerobic digestion (digestate) as sustainable soil amendments for use in place of traditional fertilisers. It is argued that whilst the ability of combined ash and digestate to remedy many threats to ecosystems and provide a market to incentivise the renewable bio-energy schemes is promising, a step-change is required to alter perceptions of 'waste', from an expensive problem, to a product with environmental and economic value. This can only be achieved by well-informed interactions between scientists, regulators and end users, to improve the spread and speed of innovation with this sector.