Knowledge for policy
Audio-visual material 24 September 2019

Food, feed, fibres, fuels. Enough biomass for a sustainable bioeconomy?

Latest JRC data on biomass supply and demand in Europe presented at a high-level debate organised on 25 September 2019, as part of the European Research and Innovation Days in Brussels.

The estimates show that around 1.2 billion tonnes of biomass was supplied and used in the EU in 2015.

Biomass comes mainly from primary sources (1 billion tonnes) such as agricultural crops (51.5%) and their collected residues (9.9%), grazed biomass (11.7%), forestry (26.6%) as well as fisheries and aquaculture (0.3%).

An additional 0.2 billion tonnes are supplied from secondary sources such as recycled paper, reuse of by-products from wood processing and recovery of wood and other bio-waste. 

Supply of biomass from waste recovering is increasing. Over the period 2010-2015, the amount of biological waste that is not recovered (via recycling or energy recovery) was reduced by as much as 45%. This shows the increasing importance of circular economy approaches.

This biomass is used to cover different needs, ranging from animal feed and bedding (43.3%), plant-based food (9.3%) and seafood (0.3%) to energy (23.3%) including heat, power and biofuels, various material uses (23.8%) such us wood products and furniture, textiles, and different types of innovative bio-based chemicals.

The overall biomass use in the EU has grown by around 8.5% over the period 2010-2015.  In absolute terms, most of the increase was due to rising demand for bioenergy (+67 Mt), followed by increased demand for bio-based materials (+15 Mt) and for animal feed and bedding (+10 Mt).

In relative terms too, the use of biomass for bioenergy has shown a remarkable growth by about 32% during this period. The use of biomass for producing materials has increased overall by 5.6% from 2010 to 2015. Within this category, the bio-based chemical sectors exhibited the highest relative increase (+48.4%), but in absolute terms this remains a very small fraction of the total domestic consumption of biomass (0.1%).