Waste Agricultural Biomass

Waste Agricultural BiomassAs a result of intensified agricultural production in the wake of population growth and improved living standards, there has been a rapid increase in volume and types of waste agricultural biomass. This is becoming a serious problem as rotten waste agricultural biomass emits methane and leachate, and open burning by the farmers to clear the lands generates CO2 and other pollutants. Hence improper management of waste agricultural biomass is contributing to climate change, water and soil contamination, and local air pollution.

If properly managed, waste agricultural biomass can be of high value as the energy that it contained in it can be recovered. According to UNEP’s findings, 5 billion metric tons of biomass is generated every year from agriculture. This is the thermal equivalent of about 1.2 billion tons of oil - about 25 percent of current global production.

The benefits of converting waste agricultural biomass into energy are manifold:

It is a widely available, renewable, and free. It can contribute to reduce GHG emissions by avoiding the methane that is generated in the natural decaying process, and by substituting fossil fuels. In addition, using waste agricultural biomass does not compromise the production of main food or non-food crops.

Although there is an emerging trend on the utilization of biomass conversion technologies – from combustion of rice husk and sugarcane bagasse to gasification of other agricultural residues – biomass is still largely underutilized.

Over the years several technologies have been developed to use biomass, but there is still a lack of awareness that waste agricultural biomass can be used as a valuable resource and a lack of capacity to use the appropriate technologies.

To contribute to enhanced utilization of waste agricultural biomass, the work plan for the focal area on waste agricultural biomass proposes to:

  • Raise awareness
  • Build capacity on assessment of waste agricultural biomass;
  • Promote industrial and commercial use of waste agricultural biomass by demonstrating appropriate technologies
  • Assist national and/or local governments to develop a policy packages and facilitate partnerships.

The focal area on waste agricultural biomass is led by UNEP's Division of Technology, Industry and Economics - International Environmental Technology Centre (DTIE IETC).