How can household garden waste be used to improve soil quality, clean the water and air, and reduce harmful emissions? Well, the answer to that has required some circular thinking. Circular solutions are about closing cycles, turning waste into a valuable resource for recycling, and ensuring that the environment is taken care of.
Working out of Verapark – a thriving test bed for jointly developing green solutions in Helsingborg – NSR is exploring the role that biochar can play for our future. So what exactly is biochar? While it may look a little like regular charcoal, biochar is produced through a process that allows for reduced contamination and the safe storage of carbon. It’s made by burning organic material like leaves, dead plants, or wood chips in a container with very little oxygen – a process known as pyrolysis. The result is a stable form of carbon that won’t easily leak into the atmosphere, with the added bonus of clean energy being created in the process in the form of heat. And that’s just the start of it!
When waste from gardening and agriculture is left to decompose naturally, it releases a large amount of harmful carbon dioxide as well as methane gas, which is about 25% more harmful to the climate than carbon dioxide. Mixing biochar into soil can ensure that the carbon is stored for a long time – possibly thousands of years! And the soil benefits greatly for added biochar, with effects such as improved soil structure and reduced acidity. With Helsingborg’s ambitious tree-planting initiative well under way, using biochar will see to it that a greener city grows from quality, toxin-free earth. Circular solutions mean looking at the big picture in a smarter, more sustainable city.
With a major joint investment of SEK 30 million, NSR is currently building a biochar production plant with the goal of increased applications and putting the city’s garden waste to good use. Around 7,000 tons of garden waste will annually produce about 1,500 tons of biochar, with the process itself taking only 20 minutes or so.
Read more here about the other exciting projects at Verapark that make use of recycled materials. After all, today’s waste could be tomorrow’s treasure!