Glossary table

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z
advanced biofuels

Advanced (second and third generation) biofuels are biofuels produced from biomass that does not compete directly with food and feed crops, such as waste and agricultural residues (for example wheat straw and municipal waste), non-food crops (such as Miscanthus and short rotation coppice) and algae.

agricultural residue

Agricultural plant parts, primarily stalks and leaves, not removed from the fields with the primary harvest, such as corn stover (stalks, leaves, husks, and cobs), wheat straw and rice straw.

anaerobic digestion

The breakdown of organic material by micro-organisms in the absence of oxygen.


Derived from biomass. Composed or derived in whole or in part of biological products issued from the biomass (including plant, animal, and marine or forestry materials).

bio-based economy

The sustainable production of biomass and the conversion of biomass into value added products, such as food, feed, bio-based products and bioenergy. It includes the sectors of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food and pulp and paper production, as well as parts of chemical, biotechnological and energy industries.

Bio-based material

Materials wholly or partly derived from biomass.

Bio-based product

Product wholly or partly derived from biomass.


Charcoal used as a soil improver. Like all charcoal, it is produced by pyrolysis.


Can be decomposed by biological activity.

biodegradable plastics

Can be entirely decomposed by biological activity without leaving behind any residue. Biodegradable plastics can be manufactured from renewable materials and fossil fuels.


A diesel fuel substitute that can be made from a variety of oils, fats, and greases. It is made by reacting vegetable oil, animal fat or microalgae oils with an alcohol and a catalyst to separates the glycerin from the oil or fat. The resulting product, biodiesel, is thinner than the original oil or fat […]


Defined in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity as: “The variability among living organisms from all sources, including, ‘inter alia’, terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.”


An economy that is largely dependent on bio-based products and materials, and bio-based industries.


Energy derived from biofuels.


Fuel produced from biomass. It is a broad definition that cover a range of materials, from solid fuels like wood to liquid fuels such as biodiesel. First generation or conventional biofuels are biofuels produced from food crops, such as sugar, starch and vegetable oils. They are produced from crops that can also be used for […]


Gas produced by the breakdown of biomass. A biofuel.


Lubricants derived from biomass. Lubricants are substances, such as oil or grease, used for minimising friction.


Organic matter, such as plant material and animal waste.


Plastic that is derived from biomass, rather than petrochemicals. Bio-based plastics are not necessarily biodegradable.


A polymer comprised, at least in part, of monomers produced in a biorefinery from biomass such as corn. An alternate definition includes all biologically produced polymers, like DNA, RNA and proteins.


A facility where products and energy are produced from biomass.


Solvents derived from biomass. Solvents are liquids in which a solute is dissolved to form a solution.


Surfactants derived from biomass. Surfactants are molecules that consist of one hydrophilic (water-loving) part and one hydrophobic (water-hating) part. When added to a liquid surfactants reduce the liquid’s surface tension. They have practical applications in many products, such as detergents, fabric softeners, emulsions and soaps.


An incidental product deriving from a manufacturing process or chemical reaction – not the primary product or service being produced. A by-product can be useful or it can have negative consequences.

carbon footprint

The full quantity of greenhouse gases that can be attributed to an entity, e.g. an individual, a company, a product or a country.


Balancing the amount of carbon released – by burning fossil fuels or biomass, or the decomposition of plant biomass, for example – with an equivalent amount put into and stored in soils, plant and animal tissues, or other material such as the ocean floor.


The ability of a chemical or physical agent to have an adverse effect on the health of an ecosystem, by damaging individual species and/ or changing the structure and function of the ecosystem.

embodied energy

The energy consumed, directly or indirectly, by all the process required to produce any goods or service. This covers everything ranging from the mining of raw material to manufacturing and deliver. For buildings, it can also include ongoing, lifetime energy consumption associated with maintenance and use.

environmental impact

Any change to the environment, whether adverse or beneficial, that wholly or partially results from an organisation’s activities, products or services.


When pollution causes a waterbody to become over-rich in plant nutrient. This leads to an overgrowth of algae and other aquatic plants. When these plants die and decompose they rob the water of oxygen and the waterbody becomes lifeless. Nitrate fertilisers and nutrients from animal and human waste are the primary causes of eutrophication.

fibre products

Products derived from the fibres of herbaceous and woody plant materials. Examples include pulp, composition board products and wood chip.

forestry residues

By-products of logging operations (primary forest residues), such as branches, stumps. tree tops and sawdust, and industrial wood processing (primary forest residues), for example bark, sawmill slabs, sawdust and wood chip.

fossil fuel

A carbon or hydrocarbon fuel formed in the ground from the remains of dead plants and animals. It takes millions of years to form fossil fuels. Oil, natural gas, and coal are fossil fuels.

green chemistry

The design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances. Also known as sustainable chemistry. (Anastas & Warner 1998, also US EPA 2011)

greenhouse gases

Gases that contribute to global warming and climate change. The Kyoto Protocol, an environmental agreement adopted by many of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1997, covers six greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6).

indirect land use change

When pasture or agricultural land previously destined for the food, feed and fibre markets is diverted to biofuel production, the non-fuel demand will still need to be satisfied either through intensification of current production or by bringing non-agricultural land into production elsewhere. The latter is indirect land-use change and when it involves the conversion of […]

industrial biotechnology

Industrial, or white, biotechnology uses enzymes and microorganisms to make bio-based products in sectors as diverse as chemicals, food and feed, detergents, paper and pulp, textiles and bioenergy.

life cycle assessment

An assessment of the environmental impact of a product throughout its life cycle, from raw material acquisition through production, use, end-of-life treatment, recycling and final disposal. Also known as life-cycle analysis, ecobalance, and cradle-to-grave analysis.

marginal lands

Areas not suitable for agriculture, such as land that is subject to drought or extreme flooding, or that suffers from salt stress. It is a broad definition that covers many different types of land. It’s considered land of poor quality with regard to agricultural use, and unsuitable for housing and other uses.


The major component of natural gas. It can be formed by anaerobic digestion of biomass or gasification of coal or biomass.


Growing genetically identically/very similar plants over a large area, with no other types of plants present.

organic waste

Waste derived from animals or plants.

passive house

Ultra-low energy buildings that require little energy for heating or cooling. According to the Passive House Institute, a German research centre that helped develop a voluntary standard for passive houses, such buildings can reduce energy costs by up to 90% compared with typical building stock, and more than 75% compared with average new builds.


A large molecule formed from many identical smaller molecules, known as monomers.


The decomposition and breakdown of biomass with heat, in the absence of oxygen. It produces charcoal and combustible gases.

renewable material

Material that is composed of biomass and can be continually reused.


A liquid that dissolves a solid, liquid, or gaseous solute, resulting in a solution.

sustainable development

Economic growth and social progress that is sustainable now and in the future. It combines economic development with environmental protection and social justice.

sustainable forest management

Managing forests so that they meet society’s current demands without compromising similar capability for future generations.

VOC (Volatile organic compounds) 

Chemicals that evaporate or vaporize readily at room temperature. They include human-made and naturally occurring chemical compounds. Some can have negative effects on human health. Possible indoor sources are products and materials for the construction of buildings and furnishing, for example floor, wall and ceiling materials; paints; varnishes; adhesives; furniture and decorative materials”

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