17 September 2015

Food versus fuel - or food and fuel?

Should we spend a while thinking around the topic food versus fuel or food versus chemicals? Should the question be addressed like this? Yes – and no! Food crops should not be used for other applications where there is hunger, but if crops are grown in excess, it is better to take use of them for fuels and chemicals. Also various ‘food’ crops have been developed by natural breeding and recently also by genetic modification, to yield products less suitable for food purposes, and with better suitability for other uses. There is enough food in the world; it is merely a matter of two things: grown in the wrong place leading to poor distribution, leaving people hungry in areas with limited agricultural activity and misuse of food. A huge amount of food is wasted in the western world and we are all to blame – in homes, retail shops and logistics, restaurants, industry. Everyone knows that the box of six apples with one gone bad, will not get sold, but all six are thrown away.

Waste is not wasted

Neste has developed the capability to use a wide variety of different raw materials, mainly from waste and residue sources not competing in any form with the food industry. Although crude palm oil is not directly used in the food industry, it is used to produce ingredients for food. From this industry and other natural oil industries, several residual streams of oils are formed which mostly have no proper high quality uses. Neste is capable of using these in the NEXBTL process to produce high quality renewable hydrocarbon diesel. In 2014, already more than 60% of the oils used as feedstock were from waste and residue origins.

Often we think the world is drowning in waste. That is not the case anymore. Thanks to efficient recycling and re-use of various streams, the amount of waste and residue streams is not growing at the same rate as virgin materials. As logistics and supply chains develop, the market for wastes and residues can even become tight, and the value of these streams increases to even higher levels than virgin materials, which are also more abundant in most cases. This also leads to the possibility of fraud in the market as virgin materials may sometimes be tried to be sold as waste, which is causing another threat to the sustainable use of materials. Various markets are looking for waste and residue streams, but struggle with availability and cost in the end. No-one is perfect, but we should all aim to improve and reduce our environmental footprint!

Tomi Nyman
Tomi Nyman
Head of Business team, New Ventures