January 30, 2009 / 5:30 PM / 11 years ago

Waste could be crucial in search for cleaner fuels

LONDON (Reuters) - What we throw away could soon be used to power our cars, if projects to produce ethanol from commercial waste are ramped up.

Some companies are exploring the environmental and financial benefits of putting waste to good use and are developing technology to produce bioethanol.

Magazine paper company UPM Kymmene and renewable fuel supplier Lassila & Tikanoja are currently running pilot tests to produce bioethanol from the pulp-based waste created by the paper industry.

“We will start discussions with the European Union over investment support in February and hope to make a decision on a full-scale plant by the end of the year,” Lassi Heitanen, senior expert at Lassila & Tikanoja, told Reuters.

By developing waste processing units, Finnish energy company St1 Oy’s biofuel division hopes to produce 70 million litres a year of bioethanol by the end of 2011.

Industrial and household waste is vastly under-utilised and is usually burned or disposed of in a landfill. Decaying waste can generate methane which is even more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide.

Using it to produce a cleaner type of fuel could also help reach EU’s target that 10 percent of the bloc’ transport fuel should come from renewable sources by 2020.

Ethanol burns with a greater efficiency than gasoline, thereby emitting less carbon dioxide. The world produced 52 billion litres of ethanol in 2007, mostly in the United States and Brazil.

In a similar move to use waste efficiently, British renewable energy company New Earth Energy has partnered with waste management group Biossence to generate renewable energy in the northwest of the UK.

They want to use household and industrial waste as an energy source at two plants in the northwest of the country by 2010.

Reporting by Nina Chestney; Editing by James Jukwey

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