Biomass Waste Utilization

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Biomass waste utilization involves converting waste biomass, such as agricultural residues, forest biomass, and municipal solid waste, into valuable products, including biofuels, bio-based chemicals, and biomaterials. This approach promotes a circular economy by reducing waste and creating renewable resources from materials that would otherwise be discarded.

Impact on climate action

Biomass Waste Utilization in Biomass for Heating & Power advances climate action by converting organic waste into renewable energy sources. By diverting waste from landfills, reducing methane emissions, and displacing fossil fuels, this innovation mitigates greenhouse gas emissions, promotes circularity, and accelerates the transition to clean, sustainable energy.


  • Waste Biomass Conversion Technologies: These technologies convert waste biomass into valuable products. Examples include:
    • Anaerobic digestion: This process uses microorganisms to break down organic waste in the absence of oxygen, producing biogas (methane and carbon dioxide) that can be used as a fuel.
    • Gasification: This process converts biomass into syngas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which can be used to produce fuels, chemicals, and electricity.
    • Pyrolysis: This process involves heating biomass in the absence of oxygen to break it down into bio-oil and biochar. Bio-oil can be used as a fuel or feedstock for chemicals, while biochar can be used as a soil amendment or for carbon sequestration.
    • Biomanufacturing: This process uses microorganisms or enzymes to convert biomass into bio-based chemicals and materials.
  • Circular Economy Principles: Biomass waste utilization is based on the principles of the circular economy, which aims to eliminate waste and keep resources in circulation.
  • Waste Management Optimization: Efficient waste management practices, such as sorting and separation technologies, are essential for maximizing the utilization of biomass waste.

TRL : 5-8 (depending on the specific technology)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Advanced Conversion Technologies: Researchers and startups are developing more efficient and cost-effective biomass waste conversion technologies, such as advanced anaerobic digestion systems and innovative gasification processes.
  • Biomanufacturing for Waste Utilization: Biomanufacturing processes are being developed to convert waste biomass and other organic waste materials into valuable chemicals and materials, such as bioplastics and bio-based chemicals.
  • Waste Stream Optimization: Innovations in waste management practices and technologies are improving the sorting and separation of waste streams, enabling more efficient and targeted biomass waste utilization.
  • Digital Platforms for Waste Exchange: Digital platforms are being developed to connect businesses that generate biomass waste with businesses that can utilize those waste materials, facilitating industrial symbiosis and resource exchange.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Advanced Biomass Waste Conversion Technologies
  • Biomanufacturing Innovations for Waste Utilization
  • Digital Platforms for Waste Exchange
  • Synergistic Biomass Waste Utilization Systems
  • Sustainable Biofuel Production from Waste Biomass
  • Enhanced Anaerobic Digestion Systems
  • Gasification Innovations for Biomass Waste
  • Bio-based Chemicals from Waste Biomass
  • Biomass Waste Sorting and Separation Technologies
  • Efficient Pyrolysis Processes for Waste Biomass
  • Industrial Symbiosis in Biomass Waste Utilization
  • Next-Generation Bioplastics from Biomass Waste
  • Innovative Biorefinery Integration for Waste Biomass
  • Novel Applications of Biochar from Waste Biomass
  • Biomass Waste Utilization in Urban Environments

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Enerkem:
    • Technology Enhancement: Enerkem specializes in converting non-recyclable municipal solid waste (MSW) and other biomass feedstocks into renewable fuels and chemicals through a thermochemical process called gasification and catalytic conversion. Their technology transforms waste materials into syngas, which is then converted into methanol, ethanol, and other valuable products.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Enerkem stands out for its innovative approach to waste-to-biofuels conversion, utilizing a proprietary gasification and synthesis process to produce low-carbon transportation fuels and chemicals. Their technology enables the sustainable management of waste streams while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Enerkem serves municipalities, waste management companies, and industrial partners seeking sustainable solutions for waste diversion and renewable fuel production. Their facilities are deployed in urban areas with high waste generation rates, providing an environmentally responsible alternative to landfilling and incineration.
  • LanzaTech:
    • Technology Enhancement: LanzaTech specializes in gas fermentation technology for converting carbon-rich waste streams, such as industrial off-gases and syngas from biomass gasification, into ethanol and other sustainable chemicals. Their proprietary microorganisms can metabolize carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, enabling the production of valuable products from waste carbon.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: LanzaTech stands out for its unique approach to carbon recycling and waste utilization, leveraging biological processes to convert waste gases into fuels and chemicals. Their technology offers a versatile and scalable solution for decarbonizing industrial processes and reducing emissions from waste streams.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: LanzaTech serves a wide range of industries, including steel manufacturing, petrochemicals, and waste management, seeking to monetize waste carbon and reduce their carbon footprint. Their gas fermentation technology can be integrated into existing industrial facilities to valorize waste gases and produce sustainable products.
  • Full Cycle Bioplastics:
    • Technology Enhancement: Full Cycle Bioplastics specializes in the production of biodegradable bioplastics from organic waste materials using microbial fermentation and polymerization processes. Their technology converts organic waste streams, such as food waste and agricultural residues, into polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), a biodegradable polymer suitable for various applications.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Full Cycle Bioplastics stands out for its focus on closing the loop on organic waste management by producing bioplastics from renewable and waste-derived feedstocks. Their technology offers a sustainable alternative to conventional plastics, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and mitigating plastic pollution.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Full Cycle Bioplastics serves consumer goods companies, packaging manufacturers, and brands seeking sustainable alternatives to traditional plastics. Their biodegradable bioplastics can be used in a wide range of applications, including packaging, disposable products, and agricultural films, providing customers with environmentally friendly options.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Wageningen University & Research:
    • Research Focus: Wageningen University & Research is a leading institution in the field of biomass utilization, particularly in exploring innovative methods to convert biomass waste into valuable products and energy sources.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses a wide range of biomass waste streams, including agricultural residues, forestry waste, and organic municipal solid waste. They investigate advanced conversion technologies such as pyrolysis, gasification, and anaerobic digestion to transform biomass waste into biofuels, biogas, biochar, and biochemicals.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their research have applications in decentralized energy generation, district heating systems, bio-based chemicals, and soil amendment. By valorizing biomass waste, Wageningen’s research contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing resource efficiency, and promoting circular economy principles in the bioenergy sector.
  • University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: The University of California, Berkeley conducts innovative research on Biomass Waste Utilization, with a focus on developing sustainable solutions for managing organic waste streams and generating renewable energy.
    • Uniqueness: Their research integrates expertise in environmental science, engineering, and policy to address key challenges in biomass waste utilization, such as feedstock availability, technology scalability, and environmental sustainability. They explore novel approaches for co-digestion, co-gasification, and co-combustion of biomass waste with other renewable fuels to enhance energy efficiency and reduce emissions.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their research find applications in waste-to-energy facilities, biorefineries, and integrated bioenergy systems. By valorizing biomass waste, UC Berkeley’s research supports the transition to a low-carbon energy economy, mitigates organic waste pollution, and creates opportunities for decentralized energy production and rural development.
  • Technical University of Munich (TUM):
    • Research Focus: Technical University of Munich (TUM) is at the forefront of research on Biomass Waste Utilization, focusing on developing innovative technologies and processes for converting biomass residues into renewable heat, power, and biofuels.
    • Uniqueness: Their research spans from fundamental studies on biomass characterization and thermochemical conversion mechanisms to applied research on reactor design, process optimization, and system integration. They investigate advanced gasification and combustion technologies, as well as bio-refining techniques for producing high-value bio-based products from biomass waste.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their research have applications in decentralized energy systems, industrial heating, and bio-based material production. By valorizing biomass waste streams, TUM’s research contributes to reducing fossil fuel dependence, enhancing energy security, and fostering sustainable development in rural areas.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Several biomass waste utilization technologies, such as anaerobic digestion and gasification, are already being implemented in commercial-scale projects around the world. For example, Enerkem operates a commercial-scale plant in Canada that converts municipal solid waste into biofuels and chemicals.