Every year, at least 1,300 million tons of agricultural waste is produced, and the amount is likely to expand further in a world with a growing population to feed. Our current linear approach to handling this vast amount of waste via landfills and incineration has already contributed to about 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions and also created various toxic pollutants. There is an urgent need to sustainably manage agricultural waste that can benefit both the environment and humans. Thermochemical conversion emerges as a promising technology that can convert agricultural waste into a variety of valuable products, creating circularity opportunities. In this primer, we explain the thermochemical conversion of agricultural waste by illustrating four mainstreaming processes. We further discuss the potential tradeoffs of these processes in terms of their environmental externalities and reflect upon the potential toward a circular and net-zero future.
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