Growing demand for biomass for energy in Europe and beyond, alongside growing interest in the use of biomass to replace petroleum and other conventional materials in the production of industrial products and chemicals, necessitates consideration of how the limited supplies of biomass can be used most efficiently. This paper presents the concept of cascading the use of biomass (i.e. a mechanism for prioritizing its use for socially preferable products, notably materials over its use for energy). Such a mechanism would be an opportunity to maximize the efficiency of biomass use. Currently, barriers to the wider adoption of cascading persist in the form of underdeveloped supply chains to facilitate the reuse of biomass resources and a regulatory framework that focuses support on the energy use of biomass. This paper discusses policy mechanisms and instruments that could help lift these barriers, including measures under the EU Renewable Energy Directive to introduce more encompassing sustainability criteria and incentives for the use of end-of-life biomass. We further argue for more research to better understand the environmental and economic impacts of increased industrial biomass uses and to link any support for biomaterials closely to the outcome of such research.
Keegan, D., Kretschmer, M., Elbersen, B. S., & Panoutsou, C. (2013). Cascading use: a systematic approach to biomass beyond the energy sector. Biofuels Bioproducts and Biorefining, 7(2), 193-206. https://doi.org/10.1002/bbb.1351