Scientists in Singapore and Switzerland have published new research in a report called Global Change Biology: Bioenergy which states that converting waste from the world's landfills into biofuel, and using it in place of gasoline, could cut global carbon
Using alternative biofuels, such as those produced from crops, is not ideal because the necessary increase in crop production has an adverse environmental effect, but the use of refuse-derived biofuels e.g. cellulosic ethanol offers the same benefits.
‘Our results suggest that fuel from processed waste biomass, such as paper and cardboard, is a promising clean energy solution,’ said study author Associate Professor Hugh Tan of the National University of Singapore. ‘If developed fully this biofuel could simultaneously meet part of the world’s energy needs, while also combating carbon emissions and fossil fuel dependency.’
The figures were calculated using the UN Human Development Index to estimate waste generation in 173 countries. This was then compared to the amount of gasoline produced in the same countries. The amount of cellulosic ethanol that could be produced from the world’s landfills is estimated at 82.93 billion litres. The substitution of gasoline with this biofuel would mean that global carbon emissions would be cut by 29.2% to 86.1% for every unit of energy.
‘If this technology continues to improve and mature these numbers are certain to increase,’ said co-author Dr. Lian Pin Koh from ETH Zürich. ‘This could make cellulosic ethanol an important component of our renewable energy future.’