2022 is witnessing the unfolding of a series of crises, with global demand forcing up wholesale energy prices, leading to increased fertiliser prices and increased crop production costs. Drought and conflict are also contributing to increased food prices, which is all then feeding in to a cost of living crisis. But what does any of this have to do with bioresources (sewage sludges) or biowastes (food and other biodegradable wastes)?
Anaerobic digestion has been a cornerstone of sludge processing for decades, while the 2011 AD Strategy and Action Plan prefigured a market revolution in biowaste and farm AD. Both sectors now find themselves managing resource hubs that are currently producers of renewable energy, renewable CO2 and renewable fertilisers – and which will be core components of future biorefineries. Both sectors also find themselves with converging regulatory drivers, meaning that maximum productivity and value from renewable resources need to be delivered with the minimum of environmental impact. Productivity, value and absence of harm are all key themes in this year’s Biosolids and Bioresources Conference.
Processing of bioresources and biowaste is inextricably linked with upstream and downstream market drivers, and these are also shifting. The reduction in phosphorus discharge consents at wastewater treatment works is changing the nature and volume of some sewage sludges, while the forthcoming introduction of compulsory food waste collections in England may millions of tonnes of new feedstock in the market. Does this make co-digestion more likely, or do the regulatory costs still render this unattractive? With the introduction of (plastic) contamination limits to biowaste processing permits, will food waste quality improve? Are markets driving up the quality of biosolids and biofertilisers, or are they largely disengaged? Where might future value be derived, beyond biofertilisers and biogas? Are advances in metagenomics allowing us to tailor feedstock mixes and process controls to favour the most productive microbial communities? Are fugitive greenhouse gas emissions significant in biowaste and bioresource processing, and what might this mean for carbon markets?
These questions and more will be explored at this year’s conference on the 22 – 23 November at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole. Aqua Enviro are inviting abstract submissions for both oral and poster presentation – for further details please visit www.european-biosolids.com.
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