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Bioresources in circular bioeconomy

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By Dr. Maja Berden Zrimec, researcher and content writer

In the pursuit of independence from fossil fuels and materials, avoiding the threat of finite new resources that our Earth can offer, concepts such as circular economy, bio-based resources, green economy, blue (bio)economy, and finally the circular bioeconomy are being put forward as a vital solution.

Circular bioeconomy combines the approaches of bioeconomy and circular economy. Circular economy tries to reduce the demand for new natural resources extraction by creating closed-loop systems with reuse, sharing, repair, remanufacturing, recovering and recycling, thus reducing the waste to a minimum. The circulating resources can still be fossil based, but their use is much more efficient and prolonged due to the advantageous technologies and circular supply chains.

Bioeconomy, on the other hand, essentially relies on utilising biological resources to produce energy, materials and chemicals. This means using renewable biological resources from land and sea, like crops, forests, fish, animals and micro-organisms to produce food, materials and energy (EC). In this aspect, both approaches depend on the innovation and development of new products and technologies.

European Commission adopted its first Bioeconomy Strategy in February 2012. (Infographic: EC Knowledge Centre for Bioeconomy, 2019)

In circular bioeconomy, two concepts can complement each other, therefore the resources coming into the circular economy become by definition bio-based and are not of fossil origin — so called bioresources. The combination of bioeconomy and circular economy is interesting also because it has a high potential to lead to more sustainable production and consumption, but only if several other criteria are met. For example, although bioeconomy is based on bioresources, it still largely relies on the non-renewable energy and biomass production with the help of fossil-based raw materials, such as nitrogen fertilisers, organic chemicals, and polymers (Tan&Lamers 2021).

Algae present an extremely interesting opportunity for the circular bioeconomy as they can produce biomass from the waste substrates. (Adobe Stock Photo)

To become sustainable, circular bioeconomy must go beyond simply switching fossil resources with renewable bioresources. It requires low-carbon energy inputs, sustainable supply chains, and innovative disruptive conversion technologies for the sustainable transformation of renewable bioresources into the high-value bio-based products, materials, and fuels (Tan&Lamers 2021). In this context, European Commission considers the circular bioeconomy as a framework to reduce the dependence on natural resources and transform manufacturing to enable sustainable production and processing of renewable resources from land, fisheries, and aquaculture into the bio-based products and bioenergy.

Another important aspect is the establishment of viable supply and value chains to enable the flow of materials and energy from bioresources to bio-based products and energy. In our next blogs we will present you a variety of bio-based resources, their valorisation and circularity.


European Commission (2015): A new bioeconomy strategy for a sustainable Europe.

European Commission (2020): A new Circular Economy Action Plan For a cleaner and more competitive Europe, COM (2020) 98 final.

Guobys L. (2019): EIP-AGRI workshop “Opportunities for farm diversification in the circular bioeconomy”.

Melnyk L. et al. (2021): Bioenergy and bioresources usage in the context of circular economy promotion. Economics and Business, doi: 10.2478/eb-2021–0004

Muizniece I. (2019): Circular Economy and Bioeconomy Interaction Development as Future for Rural Regions. Case Study of Aizkraukle Region in Latvia. Environmental and Climate Technologies 23(3): 129–146, doi: 10.2478/rtuect-2019–0084

Stegman et al. (2020): The circular bioeconomy: Its elements and role in European bioeconomy clusters. Resources, Conservation & Recycling, doi: 10.1016/j.rcrx.2019.100029

Tan E.C.D., Lamers P. (2021): Circular Bioeconomy Concepts — A Perspective. Frontiers in Sustainability, doi: 10.3389/frsus.2021.701509

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