Circular economy: how can we make raw materials from organic waste?

13 February 2018 • 2 min reading time

Organic waste streams are currently composted, digested or incinerated. The waste management industry would like to do more, in terms of establishing a circular economy. They would prefer these waste streams to be used as building blocks for the chemical industry. Watch the video below to find out how TNO is shaping this transition, together with various waste management companies, the chemical industry, and other relevant supply chain partners.

Increasing sustainability is one of our greatest societal challenges. An essential element here is the creation of a circular economy – an economic system that maximizes the reusability of products and raw materials while minimizing value destruction. The reuse of waste would be a significant step towards this goal.

Using organic residual streams

Within Biorizon Shared Research Center TNO is working on technology development for the production of bio-aromatics. Organic residual streams can be converted into furans and levulinic acid, which are building blocks for bio-aromatics. Aromatic compounds make up 40 percent of the chemicals in applications. Each year, 90-100 megatonnes of these compounds are used in the manufacture of various products such as plastics, lubricants, coatings and packaging. Waste streams such as manure, SSO (vegetable, garden and fruit waste) sieve fraction and diaper fill can be suitable feedstocks for the production of these chemical building blocks. If the chemical industry were to make full use of such organic residual streams, it would ultimately be possible to achieve a 50-75 percent cut in CO2 emissions. This is motivating many companies, such as Coca-Cola, Unilever and LEGO, to explore these alternative – sustainable – raw materials.

“If the chemical industry were to make full use of such organic residual streams, it would ultimately be possible to achieve a 50-75 percent cut in CO2 emissions”

Seeking partners for a pilot plant

TNO is currently working towards a pilot plant to convert organic residual streams into building blocks for bio-aromatics. “We are seeking partners that can supply waste for this plant and chemical companies that would be prepared to use the building blocks we produce”, says TNO’s Monique Wekking. “Cooperation like this can mean increased economies of scale, while providing access to even more practical knowledge from the supply chain.” 

More about the circular economy

Circular economy: TNO is working on a future without waste

This is how we will accelerate the transition to a circular plastics economy

TNO sets the course for the circular economy

What is the impact of circular construction?

Get inspired by TNOTIME on the circular economy. 

This TNO project supports the following Sustainable Development Goals


Would you like more details about how TNO is paving the way for the introduction of a circular economy?

Let's find out

TNO sets the course for the circular economy

23 Jan '18 - 4 min
What opportunities are offered by the transition to a more circular economy in the Netherlands, for example in terms of employment and the environment? Given the... Read more

This is how we will accelerate the transition to a circular plastics economy

9 Jan '18 - 4 min
A strongly supported agenda featuring projects that aim to accelerate the transition to a fully circular plastics economy: that is the result of the collaboration... Read more
future view

Storing summer heat for use in winter

16 Sep '16 - 4 min
TNO is currently developing a heat battery which will store heat in the summer for use in the winter. In a sustainable world, the battery is an essential technology... Read more
customer experiences

Tank terminal of the future: big brother is watching

9 Sep '16 - 3 min
Artificial eyes and ears. These devices are extremely useful in industrial environments that need to be safe, clean and cost-effective. Together with TNO, Royal... Read more

Dashboard keeps cities clean and livable

17 Feb '16 - 3 min
Dozens of cameras measure which traffic is moving where in the city, divided into the categories passenger cars, delivery vans, and lorries. This system gives an... Read more


Stay up to date with our latest news, activities and vacancies collects and processes data in accordance with the applicable privacy regulations for an optimal user experience and marketing practices.
This data can easily be removed from your temporary profile page at any time.
You can also view our privacy statement or cookie statement.