Progress and Prospects in the Field of Biomass and Waste to Energy and Added-Value Materials


This paper reports the conclusions of the three panel discussions held during the WasteEng2016 Conference in Albi, France ( It explores the research and development trends aiming at the production of energy and added value materials from waste and/or biomass. Three approaches are investigated: thermochemical conversion (Panel chairs: M. Castaldi, J.M. Lavoie, C. Vandecasteele), biochemical conversion (Panel chairs: J. Legrand, P.T. Vasudevan, W. Verstraete) and, sustainable construction and energy storage (Panel chairs: J. van Deventer, Y. Pontikes, X. Py). The thermochemical conversion session addressed feedstock, technologies for energy recovery and material recycling, gas cleaning and the marketplace. It is shown that combustion (WtE) is the leading technology and that also much research is devoted to gasification and pyrolysis. The biochemical conversion session noted the ability to yield products applied to different sectors such as food and feed, chemical, biofuels, biomaterials and many others. Innovation oriented towards better exploitation of the existing biocatalytic activity of known enzymes and microbes is also discussed. Recycling of solid and liquid waste received substantial focus in construction. Materials for thermal energy storage from waste are considered a promising use of recycled materials. The paper also shows how entrepreneurs introducing new technology have to work with both technical and commercial uncertainty, which renders investment into new technology a high risk. Finally, this paper identifies, in the three sections developed below, the trends for ongoing research and highlights the direction where the research is trending from this point forward.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.

    European Commission: Waste Framework Directive. Directive 2008/98/EC on waste. (2008). Accessed 19 Sept 2016

  2. 2.

    Castaldi, M.J.: Perspectives on sustainable waste management. Ann. Rev. Chem. Biomol. Eng. 5, 547–562 (2014)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Billen, P., Costa, J., Van der Aa, L., Van Caneghem, J., Vandecasteele, C.: Electricity from poultry manure: a cleaner alternative to direct land application. J. Clean. Prod. 96, 467–475 (2015)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Klinghoffer, N.B., Castaldi, M. J.: Waste to Energy Conversion Technology. Elsevier, Amsterdam (2013)

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Vandecasteele, C.: Modern trends in waste-to-energy. ISWA 2015 World Congress, Antwerp, 7–9 September (2015)

  6. 6.

    AEB (Waste-to-Energy company). (2016). Accessed 20 Sept 2016

  7. 7.

    Keppel, S.: (2015) Accessed 20 Sept 2016

  8. 8.

  9. 9.

    De Greef, J., Villani, K., Goethals, J., Van Belle, H., Vandecasteele, C.: Optimising energy recovery and use of chemicals, resources and materials in modern waste-to-energy plants. Waste Manag. 33, 2416–2424 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Van Caneghem, J., De Greef, J., Block, C., Vandecasteele, C.: NOx reduction in waste incinerators by selective catalytic reduction (SCR) instead of selective non catalytic reduction (SNCR) compared from a life cycle perspective: a case study. J. Clean. Prod. 112, 4452–4460 (2016)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

  12. 12.

  13. 13.

    MARTIN plants and technologies "Solutions for the recovery of energy and materials from waste”.

  14. 14.

    Verbinnen, B., Billen, P., Van Caneghem, J., Vandecasteele, C.: Recycling of MSWI bottom ash: a review of chemical barriers, engineering applications and treatment technologies. Waste Biomass Valoriz. (2016). doi:10.1007/s12649-016-9704-0

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Consonni, S., Vigano, F.: Waste gasification vs. conventional waste-to-energy: a comparative evaluation of two commercial technologies. Waste Manag. 32, 653–666 (2012)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Asadullah, M.: Barriers of commercial power generation using biomass gasification gas: a review. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 29, 201 (2014)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Basu, P.: Biomass Gasification and Pyrolysis: Practical Design and Theory. Academic Press, Burlington (2010)

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Hindsgaul, C.: Thermal Gasification vs Combustion of MSW. 2nd International VDI Conference, Energy and materials from waste, Amsterdam (2014)

  19. 19.

    Bosmans, A., Vanderreydt, I., Geysen, D., Helsen, L.: The crucial role of waste-to-energy technologies in enhanced landfill mining: a technology review. J. Clean. Prod. 55, 10–23 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Kwon, E., Westby, K. J., Castaldi, M. J.: Transforming municipal solid waste (MSW) into fuel via the gasification/pyrolysis process. 18th Annual North American Waste-to-Energy Conference (pp. 53–60). American Society of Mechanical Engineers (2010)

  21. 21.

    Lusardi, M. R., Kohn, M., Themelis, N. J., Castaldi, M. J.: Technical assessment of the CLEERGAS moving grate-based process for energy generation from municipal solid waste. Waste Manag. Res. 32, 772–781 (2014)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Nzihou, A., Flamant, G., Stanmore, B.: Synthetic fuels from biomass using concentrated solar energy: a review. Energy 42(1), 121–131 (2012)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Van Caneghem, J., De Greef, J., Alderweireldt, N.: Masterclass on Waste-to-Energy. ISWA 2015 World Congress, Antwerp (2015)

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Buekens, A., Huang, H.: Catalytic plastics cracking for recovery of gasoline-range hydrocarbons from municipal plastic wastes. Resour. Conserv. Recycl. 23, 163–181 (1998)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Castaldi, M. J., Themelis, N. J.: The case for increasing the global capacity for waste to energy (WTE). Waste Biomass. Valoriz. 1(1), 91–105 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Lee, R.A., Lavoie, J. M.: From first-to third-generation biofuels: challenges of producing a commodity from a biomass of increasing complexity. Anim. Front. 3(2), 6–11 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Lavoie, J. M.: Implementing 2nd generation liquid biofuels in a fossil fuel-dominated market: making the right choices. Curr. Opin. Green Sustain. Chem. 2, 45–47 (2016)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Johnson, R.: The hierarchy of biomass uses. (2008). Accessed 19 Sept 2016

  29. 29.

    Lavoie, J.M.: Review on dry reforming of methane, a potentially more environmentally-friendly approach to the increasing natural gas exploitation. Front. Chem. 2, 81 (2014)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

  31. 31.

    Cherubini, F.: The biorefinery concept: using biomass instead of oil for producing energy and chemicals. Energy Convers. Manag. 51(7), 1412–1421 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Nigam, P.S.: Microbial enzymes with special characteristics for biotechnological applications. Biomolecules 3(3), 597–611 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Carole, T.M., Pellegrino, J., Paster, M.D.: Opportunities in the industrial biobased products industry. Appl. Biochem. Biotechnol. 113–116, 872–885 (2004)

    Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Gavrilescu, M., Chisti, Y.: Biotechnology—a sustainable alternative for chemical industry. Biotechnol. Adv. 23, 471–499 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Xu, J., Li, Z.: A review on ecological engineering based engineering management. Omega 40(3), 368–378 (2012)

    MathSciNet  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Langeveld, J.W.A., Dixon, J., Jaworski, J. F.: Development perspectives of the biobased economy: a review. Crop Sci. 50(1), S-142–S-151 (2009)

    Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Yen, H.-W., Hu, I.-C., Chen, C.-Y., Ho, S.-H., Lee, D.-J., Chang, J.-S.: Microalgae-based biorefinery: from biofuels to natural products. Bioresour. Technol. 135, 166–174 (2013)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Umamaheswari, J., Shanthakumar, S.: Efficacy of microalgae for industrial wastewater treatment: a review on operating conditions, treatment efficiency and biomass productivity. Rev. Environ. Sci. Biotechnol. 15, 265–284 (2016)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Belletante, S., Montastruc, L., Negny, S., Domenech, S.: Optimal design of an efficient, profitable and sustainable biorefinery producing acetone, butanol and ethanol: Influence of the in-situ separation on the purification structure. Biochem. Eng. J. 116, 195–209 (2016)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    United Nations: The Paris Agreement. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Paris (2015)

    Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Frost & Sullivan: World’s Top Global Mega Trends to 2025 and Implications to Business, Society, and Cultures. Macro to Micro Implications of Mega Trends for the World (2014)

  42. 42.

    International Energy Agency (IEA): Transition to Sustainable Buildings: Strategies and Opportunities to 2050 (2013)

  43. 43.

    Van Deventer, J.S.J., San Nicolas, R., Ismail, I., Bernal, S.A., Brice, D.G., Provis, J.L.: Microstructure and durability of alkali-activated materials as key parameters for standardization. J. Sustain. Cem. Based Mater. 4(2), 116–128 (2015)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

  45. 45.

    Py, X., Calvet, N., Olives, R., Meffre, A., Echegut, P., Bessada, C., Veron, E., Ory, S.: Recycled material for sensible heat based thermal energy storage to be used in concentrated solar thermal power plants. J. Sol. Energy Eng. 133, 1–8 (2011)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Gutierrez, A., Miró, L., Gil, A., Rodríguez-Aseguinolaza, J., Barreneche, N., Calvet, C., Py, X., Fernández, A.I., Grágeda, M., Ushak, S., Cabeza, L.F.: Advances in the valorization of waste and by-product materials as thermal energy storage (TES) materials. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 59, 763–783 (2016)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Meffre, A., Tessier-Doyen, N., Py, X., Huger, M., Calvet, N.: Thermomechanical characterization of waste based TESM and assessment of their resistance to thermal cycling up to 1000 °C. Waste Biomass Valoriz. 7, 9–21 (2016)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Buchwald, A., Vanooteghem, M., Gruyaert, E., Hilbig, H., De Belie, N.: Purdocement: application of alkali-activated slag cement in Belgium in the 1950s. Mater. Struct. 48(1), 501–511 (2015)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. 49.

    Dewald, U., Achternbosch, M.: Why more sustainable cements failed so far? Disruptive innovations and their barriers in a basic industry. Environ. Innov. Soc. Transit. 19, 15–30 (2016)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. 50.

    Van Deventer, J.S.J., Provis, J.L., Duxson, P.: Technical and commercial progress in the adoption of geopolymer cement. Miner. Eng. 29, 89–104 (2012)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. 51.

    Van Deventer, J.S.J., Brice, D.G., Bernal, S.A., Provis, J.L.: Development, standardization and applications of alkali-activated concretes. ASTM Symposium on Geopolymer Binder Systems, Special Technical Paper 1566. In L. Struble, J.K. Hicks, pp. 196–212. ASTM International, West Conshohocken (2013)

  52. 52.

  53. 53.

    Van Deventer, J.S.J., Provis, J.L.: Low carbon emission geopolymer concrete: from research into practice. Concrete 2015: 27th Biennial National Conference of the Concrete Institute of Australia, 69th RILEM Week, Melbourne (2015)

Download references


This article has been assembled through the contributions of the attendees of the WasteEng2016 Conference who participated in the three Panel Discussions during the conference. The attendees represented a global spectrum of location and socioeconomic position. The authors and the WasteEng conference series ( organizing committee are indebted to the attendees because without their enthusiastic, engaged, informed and honest discussion this article would not have been possible.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to A. Nzihou.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Castaldi, M., van Deventer, J., Lavoie, J.M. et al. Progress and Prospects in the Field of Biomass and Waste to Energy and Added-Value Materials. Waste Biomass Valor 8, 1875–1884 (2017).

Download citation


  • Biomass and waste
  • Energy
  • Added-value materials
  • Technologies
  • Market