An industrial facility stands out amidst a vast monochromatic plantation. The chimney expelling a white smoke contributes to the contrast of the landscape and gives the impression that one is observing a traditional polluting industry. However, what works on site is an ethanol plant and the white smoke is just the water vapor coming out of the boilers. This scenario is what describes a typical bioeconomics industry.
One can define bioeconomics as being the practice of economic activity that uses organic matter as part of the productive process. When we talk about rainwater reuse, solar or wind energy production and material recycling, we are talking about sustainability alone. However, when we are dealing with biofuels, composting, bioenergy and biogas production, sectors that use biological resources (living beings), we are talking about bioeconomics.
To understand the economic potential that bieoconomy has for the country, it is necessary to understand the current situation of biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel. The recent rise in oil prices has made ethanol a more advantageous fuel for drivers in many countries that have ethanol plants. Recently, the Brazilian government has said it is studying the possibility of raising the share of biodiesel in traditional diesel oil from 5% to 15%.
Biofuels draw attention to the volume of business they move and the popularization they have achieved. Laws of environmental improvements also fuel the market for these fuels. Here in Brazil, the ANP (National Agency for Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels) recently announced that it is raising the share of biodiesel in diesel sold in the country to 10%.
However, the use of renewable fuels is only one part of the activity known as bioeconomics, which is nothing more than the generation of economic value from environmentally sustainable production sources.
Although Brazil is one of the biggest producers of biofuels in the world, in terms of bioeconomics we are still crawling. Most of the organic matter discarded is destined to landfills and dumps, without undergoing any special treatment. If these materials were being directed to biogas plants, a lot of energy could be produced.
Another example of opportunity can be seen in the rural sector. Less than 2% of the properties have a biodigester installed. If all livestock manure, pigs and poultry were directed to biodigesters, millions of households could use clean, cheap and profitable energy. There is still a whole market to be explored in Brazil when it comes to bioeconomics.
Innovations in the sector
One challenge that both bioeconomics and other waste use practices face is the difficulty of finding the organizations that have the materials for commercialization. The companies that sell waste are dispersed, which makes the buying and selling process slow and bureaucratic, hindering the growth of the sector.
Thinking of this challenge, the mining star VG Residuos created the Waste Market platform that has already been awarded in national and international projects such as 100 Open Startups and Open Innovation Week (Oiweek). In both selections, the company was among the top five placed.
The tool works like a “garbage auction” connecting companies that want to discard the materials produced for the companies specialized in waste treatment and reuse. In the case of organic material, bioenergy or composting companies can do business with the generating organization, allowing bioeconomics to be practiced in large, medium and small scales.
CEO of VG Residuos