How converting wood waste can combat climate change

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Piles of dead wood, collected as trash and unloaded as treasure, are unloaded at this biochar facility in Bertudo, Colorado, in search of a second chance at life. James Gaspard is the CEO of this business. Biochar now.

“What Biochar Now does is take non-commercial waste wood and other organic matter and convert it into pure carbon through a chemical reaction called pyrolysis. We are developing a product that has no other market. and there is a market for it,” Gaspard said. “So, at this site, we accept clean wood, clean wood that cannot be used as a commodity such as pallets and crates, dead wood, forest fire debris and branches, etc. We accept wood that others cannot use. .”

However, the biochar process can also be used for materials beyond that list.

“Other facilities are approved to accept treated wood. We have a facility that accepts major railroad ties, which we convert to the same carbon. We also accept utility poles. “We can accept painted wood, old fences that have been treated,” Gaspard said.

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Once the wood is collected, it is shredded and placed in a kiln at three times the temperature of the fire, with little or no oxygen. This pyrolysis process turns the material into solid carbon, preventing it from being released into the atmosphere.

“So if they don’t come here, the best they can do is put it in the landfill, and then the landfill becomes methane, and that’s the worst of all,” Gaspard said. “For every tonne of carbon we produce, we create 3 tonnes of carbon credits. So for every tonne of carbon we produce, we literally replace 3 tonnes of carbon dioxide that would have been released into the atmosphere. You will be isolated.”

Francesca Cotolfo, a scientist and professor at Colorado State University, has been researching the benefits of biochar for years.

“So it’s not just the carbon benefits that char can bring, but also the many environmental benefits that come with water, fertility, pollution, etc.,” Cotolfo said.

She explains that biochar is beneficial for agriculture. Farmers use heavy machinery along with manure and manure to grow crops. These processes release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. According to current research, biochar is one of the best proposed management techniques to achieve zero emissions in combination with other efforts.

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“So I think biochar could be one of many interventions that are needed…interventions that can and should be introduced as soon as possible because the problem is serious.” There are many,” Cotolfo said.

Beyond agriculture, biochar can be used in a variety of products such as plastics and concrete.

“The solutions do exist. We just need to scale up,” Gaspard said.

But as climate change continues, Cotolfo and Gaspar both say the net needs to be cast even wider for this to become a viable solution.

“Basically to have an impact, you need to go to gigaton levels. We have the sales pipeline to support that kind of carbon removal,” Gaspard said. “We’re seeing it scale up now. So if you have hundreds of these sites around the world, you’re basically removing gigatonnes of carbon from the atmosphere every year. Become.”

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