A future bioeconomy has been widely promoted as crucial means to alleviate constraints of rising global demand for natural resources. Policy and industrial agendas together envisage biorefineries which could more efficiently convert renewable biomass, preferably non-food material and bio-waste. Its conversion would yield diverse products plus energy, thus substituting for fossil fuels.
For such conversion, a biorefinery is ‘the sustainable processing of biomass into a spectrum of marketable products’, as defined by the International Energy Agency (IEA, 2014). It would be made sustainable by technoscientific advance: Given ‘the growing demand for food, energy and water… only the use of new technologies will allow us to bridge the gap between economic growth and environmental sustainability in the long run’ (WEF, 2010). Contrary to such claims for future benefits, skeptics have anticipated various harms from expanding biorefineries.
Starting from such debates, this review ...