Regional supply of herbaceous biomass for local circular bio-based industries in the Netherlands

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The transition to a bioeconomy requires vast amounts of feedstock to serve a wide range of functionalities in a broad panel of applications in sectors as: construction, textile, paper, automotive, horticulture, and livestock farming. Herbaceous crops and residue streams like flax, hemp, miscanthus, cereal straw, reed and verge grass offer a wide range of characteristics which can serve multiple applications. This report analyses and explores the potential of production and valorisation of herbaceous feedstock in the Netherlands and eventually at regional level. An analysis is made of current production and applications of herbaceous crops and residue streams. Present supply and demand were matched by an evaluation of imports and exports. Circular economy policies, agendas and ambitions were reviewed for relevant topics: climate change, circular bioeconomy, regional development; and at 3 levels: EU, Netherlands and province of Gelderland. Also, important considerations regarding circularity and sustainability aspects of biobased value chains were discussed, with focus on construction and textiles sector. Further, potential future use in products, indication of demanded product volumes for most promising applications, and production of herbaceous feedstock in the Netherlands in 2050 were studied. An exercise to match estimated demand and required production area was performed, taking into consideration typical scale of conversion technologies related to product demand. Subsequently a SWOT analysis for use of each herbaceous feedstock for regional conversion into bio-based applications is carried out to identify the main points of attention and needs such as knowledge, infrastructure, collaborations, regulations and policies, technology for the valorisation of different feedstocks for different applications. Finally, recommendations are provided to next possible actions to materialise the transition to regional supply of herbaceous biomass for making bio-based products by local circular value chains. Compared to conventional crops, flax, hemp and miscanthus are relatively small crops in production volumes. Each of them finds its way in a diverse range of applications as mentioned above. And despite the small volumes, flax and hemp feedstock and products are exported and imported for several reasons, circularity and regionality not being an aspect of decisive importance. Cereal straw as a side stream and verge grass and reed as residue streams are produced in much higher quantities, yet they are underutilised from a circular economy perspective and mainly ploughed under directly without prior other use. Using e.g. cereal straw as animal bedding first would retain the soil improving capacity while largely reducing the need to import straw. Towards combatting climate change, establishing circular bioeconomy and developing regional value chains, policy frameworks are set at the 3 levels: EU, Netherlands and province of Gelderland. What is missing, however, is focus on value added specializations and innovations in circular economy. As a consequence strategies for the transition towards circular economy and agriculture concepts are not clear, implementation schemes are limited and long-term coordination and support is invisible. As it comes to practical rules of thumb for circularity and sustainability of biobased value chains, specific considerations are presented for construction and textiles sector. Looking to the future (2050), herbaceous biomass will find increasing application in a wide range of sectors. For that, significant amounts of bio-feedstock will be required. The main reasons to expect that cultivation of herbaceous crops will increase substantially are: their potential to contribute to the circular economy and the use of biobased materials to replace fossil feedstock (circular economy policy goals), the storage of carbon (climate goals), and using less inputs like pesticides and fertilizer and less tillage compared to conventional crops (environmental goals). To stimulate the transition to circular and regional value chains in the Netherlands and to avoid the ‘chicken-and-egg’ problem, it is essential to kick-start and provide long-term coordination of the triple requirement: accelerate increased cultivation of the feedstock, increase (collective) demand for circular and biobased products, and investments in production capacity. Regions and Provinces play an important role in this. Also, regions and provinces need to review their strengths and opportunities and focus on specific value chains because the typical (economically feasible) conversion scales are relatively large and consequently a limited number of production facilities fit in the Netherlands.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWageningen
PublisherWageningen Food & Biobased Research
Number of pages76
Publication statusPublished - May 2023

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PublisherWageningen Food & Biobased Research


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