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The indirect effects of 'wastes'

In 2008, the Gallagher Review highlighted the indirect effects of using agricultural commodities as biofuel feedstocks. Diverting streams of ‘wastes’, 'residues' and 'by-products' (referred to as 'wastes' for short) into biofuel production, when they might have other productive uses, can also indirectly cause GHG emissions.

The RFA commissioned, with the Department for Energy and Climate Change, a study by Ecometrica  to develop a methodology for quantifying the indirect greenhouse gas impacts of using ‘wastes’ for biofuels or bioenergy. The report of this study is available here. The study is partly a response to an AEA report for the Department for Transport from 2008, available here, which found that diverting tallow for biodiesel could indirectly cause increased GHG emissions.

The report, 'Methodology and Evidence Base on the Indirect Greenhouse Gas Effects of Using Wastes, Residues, and By-products for Biofuels and Bioenergy', includes case studies of UK tallow, MSW, straw and molasses.

The overall message is that producing biofuels from materials with existing uses is likely to have negative indirect effects associated with it – while using materials otherwise disposed of may have the benefit of avoided emissions. The report will provide an important contribution to the debate on what should be categorised as ‘wastes and residues’ under the EU Renewable Energy Directive, and hence offered double incentives.

RTFO Year One

Read the key findings of the report

Read the full report

Read the appendices to the report

Read the AEA tallow report

Last Modified: 27 Jan 2010

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RFA-DECC_Indirect_Effects_of_Wastes_Report.pdf873.07 KB