How to stimulate a bio-economy based on waste? – A study for the UK Government

In many countries, waste resources are not yet recognised as a core component of the growing bio-economy. However, the importance of waste in providing value-added resource streams is increasing, as are the opportunities linked to the bio-economy in general.

The UK Government is looking to develop a coherent approach to stimulating a step forward in the bio-economy, in particular towards much wider use of waste resources. It is important to learn lessons from the approaches taken in other countries, both in terms of best practice examples and practices that should be avoided. A new report from IEEP provides part of this analysis, covering eleven countries (mainly within but some beyond Europe).

Whilst the utilisation of waste resources within the bio-economy is still embryonic in many countries, governments are increasingly seeing wastes as a potentially important resource. This is partly due to governments beginning to shift from a heavy focus on bioenergy, which kick-started bio-based developments in most countries, to the broader bio-economy and higher value-added applications. Strategies that include explicit reference to waste, however, remain limited.

Nonetheless, the report identifies some common and emerging themes and initiatives that have benefited bio-economy development, whether based on wastes or otherwise. These include: precise objectives and guiding principles; the better and more resource efficient use of biomass resources through new industrial pathways; improved clustering and closer relationships between those generating and those using resources; institutional development; improved understanding of the resource base; investment in technology, R&D and knowledge; and coherent policy measures to stimulate sustainable development of the sectors involved.

The report will be used by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to support to the development of the UK high value bio-economy.

For more information on this work, please contact Ben Allen (ballen@ieep.eu).

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