Surprising Results for the ‘Bio Concrete’ Project as a Circular Alternative

Is there a market for the new sustainable product, bio concrete? That was the central question of the project that Bioclear earth, a member of the BIO Cooperative, conducted in collaboration with Noord-Nederland Verdient Circulair in the past six months. Noord-Nederland Verdient Circulair is a program that encourages entrepreneurs in the three northern provinces of Groningen, Fryslân, and Drenthe to engage in more circular business practices, preferably in concrete cases. This project was one such concrete case submitted by the BIO Cooperative. How did the project progress, and what are the results? We discussed this with Sytze Keuning, CEO of Bioclear earth and a board member of the BIO Cooperative.

Reduction of CO2

A new sustainable product like bio concrete has the potential to bring about a significant global sustainability shift in the construction industry. Cement is used in the production of concrete, and this cement is a major source of CO2 emissions. Globally, 5-6% of all CO2 production comes from the concrete industry. Sytze Keuning stated, “This entire process started a few years ago in previous projects, such as with RVO. We began with the question of how to make concrete without cement. This can be achieved with the help of bacteria. They can bind sand and gravel together, facilitating a cementation reaction on their own. Bio concrete is possible, but it is not as robust as regular concrete. This project with NNVC is a continuation: are there market players interested in this bio concrete? How does bio concrete fit into the supply chain? It has been a very market-oriented project.”
biobeton in verschillende groottes
Bio concrete in different shapes

How did you investigate this question?

“We spoke with various parties in Northern Netherlands during the project, potential consumers of bio concrete. Additionally, we established connections with various knowledge institutions, which are also consortium members of NNVC. For example, we collaborated with NHL Stenden. There, students are engaged in the circular economy and they also contributed to this issue. For instance, they pondered about potential applications for a material that resembles concrete but does not yet possess the same strength. A bicycle path, for example, can be made of asphalt or concrete, but also bio concrete.”

Does the market show interest in bio concrete?

“Yes, there does appear to be interest, but from unexpected quarters. In that regard, such a project really opens your eyes to the facts. Several market players find bio concrete an interesting material but are not eager to start using it themselves, partly because it does not yet have the same strength as regular concrete. Ultimately, there was interest from a company that insulates floors with foam concrete. Foam concrete is very lightweight but contains a significant amount of cement. Bio concrete could be a good alternative here, as the foam is a filler and does not require structural support. A second option we came across was on-site use, i.e., reinforcing a sand layer in the ground to make it more earthquake-resistant.”
Sytze Keuning, CEO Bioclear earth

Are you satisfied with the results of this project?

Keuning: “Yes, it has been a very valuable project. Technically, we can all improve the bio concrete product. However, it’s crucial to look at the market in a timely manner. This market question did yield some surprises. It turned out that the classic construction companies are not the ones interested now and seeing potential applications. That foam concrete, that’s a completely different angle, which we hadn’t considered beforehand. The on-site application also appears to be very promising. What we originally planned did not come to fruition. However, this has led us onto a different path, which we wouldn’t have achieved without this project with NNVC.”

What does the future of bio concrete look like now? Is there a follow-up to this project?

‘After completing this project, we, as a company, will consider how to take the next steps with this product. This means further investigating the options of foam concrete and on-site application. We prefer to do this, of course, with end users, with the market itself.”

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