Biofuel Waste is Bliss

Studio Agne

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- story by MaterialDistrict

The Biofuel Waste is Bliss project redefines the use of ashes from bioenergy waste streams, creating new environmentally-friendly materials and architectural products, such as ceramic glazing for tiles and bricks. Sourced from the Vilnius Heat Plant in Lithuania, approximately 460 tonnes of wood ash waste are generated monthly, posing disposal challenges. Globally, millions of tonnes of bioenergy ashes end up in landfills. By incorporating up to 55% ash content in ceramic glazes and clay bodies, the project aims to replace the need for newly extracted materials while reducing the industry’s CO2 footprint.

The Biofuel Waste is Bliss project collaborates with environmental scientist Marija Spokaite to ensure environmental performance. By working closely with the scientist, the project avoids greenwashing and substantiates its sustainable claims, addressing a common concern in design projects.

Globally, more than 476 million tonnes of ashes are generated from bio-based energy production, with a significant portion ending up in landfills. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading United Nations authority assessing climate science, recognises the significant potential of bioenergy in reducing greenhouse gas emissions when developed sustainably and used efficiently. As the world intensifies its efforts to combat climate change, the widespread adoption of biofuels is expected. Consequently, there is a growing need to find sustainable solutions for managing the increasing production of biomass ash, which is a byproduct of bioenergy generation. Vilnius Heat Plant, located in Lithuania utilises forestry residue as a primary source of biomass for energy production. Each month, the plant generates approximately 460 tonnes of wood ash waste, resulting in significant disposal costs. Currently, only a small portion of the waste is repurposed for road fillers, despite the non-toxic nature of the ashes, which makes them suitable for upcycling.

The ongoing Biofuel Waste is Bliss project research reveals that glazes and clay bodies can incorporate 55% or more ashes. Extensive research is exploring different aspects, such as incorporating waste in clay and glaze, applying it to various surfaces, and experimenting with different clays, firing temperatures, programs, and kiln types. Each modification requires specific chemical formulations. The incorporation of ash in ceramic glazes offers several benefits, making it an environmentally sustainable choice. Ash serves as a natural substitute for calcium, silicium, and other minerals found in wood ash waste, reducing the need for extracting these minerals from traditional sources. The melting oxides in the ash react during firing, creating a liquid phase that lowers the melting point of the clay and glaze. Furthermore, in the ceramic firing process, present minerals do not release CO2 as they have already been burned during the biofuel burning process. Additionally, the project utilises the natural iron content (approximately 2%) present in the ash as the sole source of colour for the Biofuel Waste is Bliss products. This eliminates the need for additional metal oxides, which can have negative environmental impacts.

Scaling up is a key aspect of the project, currently offering ceramic tiles in any desired quantity through skilled tile manufacturers upon request. The project repurposes biofuel ashes to create innovative, functional, and aesthetically pleasing ceramic solutions for interior and architectural applications.

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