Secondary Resources in the Bio-Based Economy: A Computer Assisted Survey of Value Pathways in Academic Literature

Chris B. Davis, Graham Aid, Ben Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
106 Downloads (Pure)


Research on value pathways for organic wastes has been steadily increasing in recent decades. There have been few considerably broad overview studies of such materials and their valuation potential in the bio-based economy in part because of the vast multitude of materials and processes that can be used to produce energy carriers, chemicals, and materials of value. This article explores how automated data analysis approaches can help in analyzing large bodies of text to distill and present potential value pathways for secondary (waste) bio-based materials. The study employed multiple methods (literature collection, topic modelling, and co-occurrence analysis) on a collection of abstracts from 53,292 academic articles covering technologies, applications, and products (TAPs) for bio-based wastes. The results of both the topic modelling and co-occurrence analysis are presented as online interactive web pages. The topic modelling presented an overview of research clusters related to secondary organic resources, processes, and disciplines. The co-occurrence analysis helped to understand which TAPs are researched in relation to a broad spectrum of organic wastes. Co-occurrences were evaluated using the Normalized Pointwise Mutual Information measure to locate terms which co-occur more frequently than would be expected by chance. Through the use of detailed lists of organic wastes and TAPs, the co-occurrence method mapped out 7118 unique intersections between 473 specific wastes and 228 TAPs. This technique enables us to find seemingly non-obvious valorization pathways such as the re-use of oyster shells as catalysts for bio-diesel production and bioplastic production from brewery waste. While a proof-of-concept, this work points the way for using Big Data to suggest novel pathways for implementing the Circular Economy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalWaste and Biomass Valorization
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Big Data
  • By-product
  • Circular economy
  • Industrial symbiosis
  • Recycling
  • Waste valorization

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Secondary Resources in the Bio-Based Economy: A Computer Assisted Survey of Value Pathways in Academic Literature'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this