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Waste Management CEO Seeks Technology to Turn Trash into a Commodity

Although Waste Management’s power plant on the Hudson River burns all unrecyclable trash to power a 60-megawatt generator that produces electricity, chief executive David Steiner is on a quest to find the right technology that will turn garbage into a commodity such as ethanol, diesel, gasoline, natural gas or chemicals, reports Forbes.

Steiner told Forbes he wants to own the conversion technology, and in support of his goal has made four investments in startups and joint ventures over the past year that range from developing a technology to speed up the composting process to using heat and chemicals to turn trash into ethanol.

As an example, Waste Management invested in Harvest Power, which aims to cut composting time in half from three to four months to six to eight weeks. The company sells the compost to plant growers.

Harvest chief executive Paul Sellew told Forbes that 98 percent of the food waste goes into landfills. The company is also developing an anaerobic digester and small gasifier that will turn woody waste into a natural gas.

In March, S4 Energy Solutions, a joint venture formed by Waste Management and InEnTec, announced it will build a plasma gasification facility at Waste Management’s Columbia Ridge Landfill in Arlington, Ore., that will convert municipal solid waste into clean fuels and renewable energy.

The $15.5 million joint venture between The Linde Group and Waste Management to build a plant to convert landfill gas into biogas started production last year, and is powering 300 of Waste Management’s nearly 500 natural gas-powered waste and recycling collection trucks.

While one financial analyst says Waste Management’s venture capital bids are impacting its bottom line, Steiner told Forbes that  investing in companies like Harvest Power positions the company as a ‘green’ company and attracts investors with the potential for higher growth.

According to Forbes, in 2009, the company earned $994 million on $11.8 billion in revenue, while investments in these energy projects average about $8 million.

Elsewhere, the Red Energy Group in Cape Coral, Florida, says it has a process that will turn trash into synthetic fuel, reports Wink News.

Red Energy Group says its technology is based on processes used in Europe, which will condense the trash into odor-free pellets, then convert it to fuel, without pollution, according to the newspaper. The company’s engineers says it can save the city money and reduce its waste while providing alternative fuel at a discounted price to the city.

The company wants to build a facility in the northeast Cape that would have the capacity to turn one ton of garbage into 1,100 gallons of diesel fuel, and save the city $400,000 annually in fuel costs, reports ABC-7.com.

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2 thoughts on “Waste Management CEO Seeks Technology to Turn Trash into a Commodity

  1. Has the plasma are gasification process changed in the last few years? Inentec’s CEO admitted under oath in Red Bluff, California that it had 5 places in its design where “fugitive emissions” could escape, putting dioxins and other toxics into the atmosphere. Also there was no plan for what to do with the toxin-laden water that washes the filters. Planners should study the record and beware!

  2. One by one small gains are being made in the reduction of contents filling our landfills. Recently I saw some pieces on shows like CNN and the journal with Joan Lunden on PBS that were talking about issues and solutions for industrial recycling. Along with things like zero waste policies urban mining and now waste companies finding ways to profit from being more efficient we could really see a drastic difference in the next few decades. I think there is a battle ahead but I for one see hope.

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