We Recycle Wood Waste

Biomass vs Fossil Fuels

Woody biomass can be differentiated from fossil fuels, because it replenishes itself, or is renewed, within human time of 25 to 30 years in the case of commercial pine plantations, as opposed to geologic time of millions of years, as is the case with fossil fuels, like coal and natural gas. Therefore the use of biomass fuels like wood pellets result in a positive impact on the environmental health.

Fossil fuels are formed from organisms that died millions of years ago and are therefore referred to as a non-renewable energy source. In contrast, because biomass derives from plantation residues, agricultural residues, industrial residues, animal residues, municipal solid waste and sewage – it can always be renewed by replanting new organic matter which is then systematically renewed and recycled as is the case with municipal solid waste and sewage.

In South-Africa, renewable waste from sustainable commercial timber plantations and agriculture for the manufacture of wood pellets amount to millions of tons annually, providing enough woody biomass feedstock to make a substantial difference to the South African energy balance and environment, resulting in positive conditions.

Biomass is part of the natural carbon cycle

A fixed amount of carbon exists on earth and is constantly recycled through carbon sinks, where carbon is stored for a period of time, in order for our planet to maintain healthy, balanced ecosystems.

The following cyclical activities govern the continual redistribution of carbon, namely: the circulating and rolling of the ocean surface, photosynthesis, plant and animal respiration and decay. For example, photosynthesis allows plants to absorb carbon out of the atmosphere in the form of Carbon Dioxide; then animals consume this carbon when they eat plants or other animals. As plants and animals die and decay, the carbon is slowly released back into the atmosphere from which it came for subsequent recapture by growing plants.

Biomass and carbon neutrality

When the biomass industry utilizes material, which comes from sustainably managed plantations, the process actually generates no increased greenhouse gas emissions, a circumstance described as net neutrality or carbon neutrality resulting in a positive impact on the environment.

Carbon sequestration

When trees grow for 25 to 30 years in the case of commercial pine trees, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis. Because photosynthesis removes carbon from the atmosphere, it’s a form of carbon sequestration. Therefore, photosynthesis affects positively on the “greenhouse effect” by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

However, when a plant dies and decays, it releases its carbon back into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide and methane as part of the biogenic carbon cycle. Thus, the burning of biomass occurs within the biogenic or natural carbon cycle, returning to the atmosphere carbon that was previously absorbed via photosynthesis.

In the case of biomass products like wood pellets made from plantation waste or by-products, this material is already emitting greenhouse gases into the air as it decays. In the case of methane, this is especially harmful to the environment, because it is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide. When biomass is burnt efficiently, no methane gas is released into the atmosphere.

Most scientists agree that before the industrial revolution, the carbon cycle was stable; carbon sinks did not hold or release significantly different amounts of carbon over time, and the earth’s temperature was relatively constant over thousands of years. But now that most of our energy is derived from fossil fuels, we are disturbing that stability by releasing more carbon into the atmosphere at a much greater rate than ever before, and photosynthesis simply cannot keep up with the overwhelming amount of carbon dioxide released by human economic activity.

The biogenic carbon cycle always remained balanced in the natural environment, but the entire carbon cycle including human activity, can change with the influx of once-sequestered carbon. Fossil fuels discharge carbon that, because it has been locked away in geological storage, is an additional influx of carbon, unbalancing the carbon cycle’s historical steadiness.

The available amount of carbon in fossil fuels is four times greater than that of the carbon in the natural biogenic cycle – in adding over time; the extra carbon will have devastating effects on the environment through global warming.

An overabundance of carbon and other greenhouse gases, like methane gas in the atmosphere, creates the “Greenhouse effect”. Gases accumulating in the atmosphere force the earth to function as a greenhouse. Just as the glass of a greenhouse prevents heated air from escaping, the greenhouse effect prevents the sun’s heat from reflecting back into space; instead, the heat is retained, warming up the earth’s atmospheric temperatures.

Eco-friendly. By nature.

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