Cut grass from roadsides and nature reserves is a good usable biocommodity. Commissioned by the Circular Economy Policy Research Center in Belgium, VITO Research investigated how this grass can be optimally used in the circular economy in different scenarios.
Every year, an estimated 427,000 tonnes of grass is cut in Flemish roadsides and nature reserves. Some is left on the field, but the majority is composted. However, grass can also be used as a building block for various products such as insulation material, fertiliser, biogas or paper. A bottleneck corms the cost of transport and logistics: €45 to €70 per tonne.
The study also took into account the risk of litter or pollution. For instance, grass from municipalities and highways (262,000 tonnes a year in Flanders) is often of lower quality. Grass from natural areas (165,000 tonnes per year) has a lower risk of contamination including litter and is therefore easier to use for higher-quality biomaterials, such as insulation materials or composite materials based on grass fibres.
The study concluded that of the potential 427,000 tonnes of grass in Flanders, it is estimated that only 177,000 tonnes are now used, mainly for composting. So there is 250,000 tonnes of grass that could be additionally valorised into biomaterials. “The study nicely demonstrates that the large amount of cut grass can be a potential for Flanders’ plans related to bioeconomy,” said Innovation Minister Jo Brouns. Flemish Environment Minister Zuhal Demir added: “Grass makes us less dependent on fossil fuels and materials we have to import from abroad. A win for our wallet and for the climate.”
The full research report can be downloaded from the website of the Circular Economy Policy Research CentreSteunpunt Circulaire Economie, a collaboration of researchers from KU Leuven, UAntwerpen, UGent and VITO.