A GROUP of specialists has called for a radical update on the UK's biochar policy to help meet net-zero targets.

The plea was made by the Future Forest Company following its participation at an Academic Industry Meeting day event hosted by Edinburgh Innovations, the University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation service, which links academia with industry.

Put simply, biochar is biomass heated in the absence of oxygen to make a charcoal-like substance, preventing it breaking down so that carbon can be usefully stored in the soil for hundreds or thousands of years. Current regulation permits biochar to be produced from biomass such as agricultural and forest wastes.

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The Future Forest Company is now calling on the UK Government and carbon standards agencies to embrace biochar production from "complex feedstock", including waste streams. 

Simon Manley, head of carbon at The Future Forest Company, said: “One of the University of Edinburgh’s recent studies showed that biochar from plastic-containing feedstock can still meet international material standards for quality so that it can go into things such as concrete, asphalt, and into the construction industry.

"Producing biochar from waste can potentially address environmental challenges around plastic pollution and energy recovery.

“We want to explore this further. We believe establishing these materials as eligible feedstock for biochar could have huge impact on pushing biochar production into the mainstream and unlocking its full potential. The potential for biochar to help the UK achieve its net zero commitment is established, but not currently on to full realisation." 

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Dr Saran Sohi, senior lecturer in Soil Science and Biochar at the School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, said: “Discussion of updated regulation is underway in Government, and in the light of the urgency around climate change, these changes must be strategic, comprehensive and integrated in policy.

"Waste materials account for about half of the CDR opportunity presented by biochar. Industry can help shape the frameworks that allow biochar CDR to progress in ways that are clean, economically viable and swift.”