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Broads trial aims to turn natural waste into useful charcoal

PUBLISHED: 11:26 21 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:26 21 August 2018

Sunset over the River Thurne on the Norfolk Broads.  Picture: James Bass

Sunset over the River Thurne on the Norfolk Broads. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2008

In a landscape sculpted centuries ago by peat-diggers, a new project aims to generate a different kind of fuel from the Broads – by turning natural waste into charcoal.

The Broads Authority is seeking landowners, contractors, conservation organisations and volunteer groups to try turning their unwanted natural material such as forestry or fen waste into useful charcoal in a transportable kiln.

If there is sufficient interest in the project, the authority says it will purchase the equipment and potentially begin trials with the interested parties in May 2019.

The kiln, known as a carbon composter, burns biomass in reduced-oxygen conditions to create two products – charcoal for cooking or heating and fine biochar which improves soils.

It is hoped that groups and individuals working in the Broads will get involved with the European-funded pilot scheme and give feedback on the results.

Andrea Kelly, senior ecologist to the Broads Authority, said: “This initiative is aimed at managing our landscapes and growing small rural enterprise around the Broads National Park.

“The addition of biochar to soil is positive for growers. Biochar increases crop yield and improves water retention and produces a more fertile soil PH.

“It also helps to suppress greenhouse gases, decreasing the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere. We really hope that landowners and organisations alike will be willing to get involved with our research and will hopefully come away with an additional income source as a result of recycling their waste products.”

The Broads Authority will provide free training in how to use the kiln, and support will be provided for marketing and retailing the resulting charcoal and char products. All profits from these sales will be returned to the parties involved, minus a 20pc hiring fee for the use of the kiln.

The initiative is led by the Broads Authority as part of its role as lead partner of CANAPE (Creating A New Approach to Peatland Ecosystems), a match-funded project which has secured more than 500,000 euros from the European Regional Development Fund to research new ways of managing peatland ecosystems for the benefit of the environment.

• For more information or to register interest in the trial, contact Andrea Kelly on andrea.kelly@broads-authority.gov.uk or 01603 756015, or biochar project member Abigail Alford on abigail.alford@broads-authority.gov.uk or 01603 756082.

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