The Advantages of Plant Waste versus Plant-Based In Driving the Circular Economy

February 8, 2024

In the ever-evolving landscape of sustainable business practices, companies like Planted Materials are championing the use of organic plant waste to produce raw materials that become feedstocks for manufacturers in order to better fuel the circular economy. With the manufacturing industry accounting for nearly a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., addressing this problem is a challenging yet critical goal. 

Waste from plants and other organic materials can be utilized in many ways for the benefit of the environment. When waste is repurposed instead of contributing to landfills or improperly disposed of, the result is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions or other land pollution. Additionally, organic waste is renewable and increasingly ample - especially as more people move to plant-based alternatives to packaging.

The approach of utilizing plant and other organic waste not only addresses environmental concerns but also contributes to the well-being of the production and waste management industries while paving the way for the manufacturing industry to adopt more readily accessible and earth-friendly procurement methods, bringing them closer to closing the circular economy loop.

The 4 Main Benefits of Plant Waste Feedstocks

1. Preserves Land Use

Often material sources that require dedicated land for cultivation pose a threat to the biodiversity of agricultural spaces and can lead to deforestation as well as natural habitat destruction. The utilization of organic plant waste bypasses the need for additional land use and reduces the need for pesticides and fertilizers. In fact, conventional crop production requires extensive amounts of synthetic fertilizer which accounts for up to 5% of the annual anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions,. This is a crucial advantage as it safeguards arable land for essential needs like sustainable food production without diverting additional resources toward another conventionally grown crop.

2.  Alleviates Pressure on Waste Management and Recycling Facilities

Even though 94% of the US population has access to some type of recycling and waste management program, the facilities have simply struggled to keep pace with the volume of waste and the complexities of processing the materials. Additionally, as many are aware, international policies on exporting waste to facilities with more capacity have become more stringent. (See: Current Challenges Facing the System overview by the EPA.) 

3. Helps Industries that Produce Organic Waste

By taking organic waste off the hands of the companies producing organic waste, the Planted Materials formula helps these organizations reduce their carbon footprint and save money; further enabling the circular economy, as they no longer have to pay for disposal fees or add the waste to their carbon balance sheet.

4. Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions

As organic waste decomposes in landfills it produces methane which is even more harmful to our environment than carbon dioxide, by a factor of 80. This is due to the fact that methane traps more heat per molecule than carbon dioxide and can remain in the atmosphere for 20 years. This greenhouse gas has the potential to be decreased significantly when organic waste is repurposed into the circular economy rather than ending its lifecycle in the landfill. 

Creating a Resilient and Circular Industrial Ecosystem

As this new approach to renewable industry seeks to create a more harmonious and sustainable relationship between manufacturers and the environment, Planted Materials is promulgating the paradigm shift towards utilizing organic plant waste as a valuable input to the closed-loop circular economy ecosystem. To understand more about the company’s pioneering process, please see the related article in Waste Advantage Magazine.

1 Menegat, S., Ledo, A. & Tirado, R. Greenhouse gas emissions from global production and use of nitrogen synthetic fertilisers in agriculture. Sci Rep 12, 14490 (2022).

2 Gao, Y., Cabrera Serrenho, A. Greenhouse gas emissions from nitrogen fertilizers could be reduced by up to one-fifth of current levels by 2050 with combined interventions. Nat Food 4, 170–178 (2023).