A Mounting Challenge
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, about 258 million tons of municipal solid waste were generated in the United States in 2014. That’s about five pounds of trash per person per day.
In a world in which we face ever-tighter constraints on so many of our resources—water, energy, clean air, arable land—trash is, unfortunately, not viewed by the mainstream as a resource. The result is the national garbage crisis the country currently faces. We’re utilizing valuable land and exporting waste from urban infrastructure to bury this resource indefinitely.
But what if there was another way instead of the current "take, make, and dispose” industrial model? Not only to make smarter use of the waste we’ve already landfilled, but also to keep the trash from getting there in the first place. A more sustainable solution. An environmentally sound and smart circular economy approach where waste becomes a valuable and renewable resource.
The good news is that there is at least one solution that can change the landscape for the better—in fact, 90% better.
Enerkem is a Montreal-based biofuels and chemicals producer that has developed an award-winning and game-changing technology that converts non-recyclable and non-crop-based waste into ethanol, with the lowest cost to produce compared to other ethanol production methods. Our company’s technology produces renewable, non-toxic, water-soluble, highly biodegradable, and clean-burning fuel and chemicals, such as cleaning solvents, glues, paints, and textiles.
From the company’s founding, we have always had the vision that Enerkem could help communities all around the world to achieve 90% waste diversion. In the years since opening the world’s first commercial-scale waste-to-biofuels facility in Edmonton, Alberta, in 2014, we have continued to pursue significant milestones across the globe toward the 90% goal, demonstrating the company’s ongoing growth and innovation.
In line with our company’s target, in 2018, Enerkem formally launched the 90% Transformation Vision, a multisectoral communications effort that engages business, government, communities, and everyday citizens to realize the full potential of a true circular economy. Our campaign simply yet effectively demonstrates how the targets can be reached. .
Beginning a Movement
Our 90% Transformation campaign was created to easily illustrate how garbage can (and should) be seen as a resource and not a waste, one that communities large and small can leverage to tackle a number of challenges. Coupled with social media, the video and accompanying messaging was developed in a way that could engage and mobilize municipal leaders, elected officials, and everyday citizens who want to solve waste challenges in their communities while simultaneously driving pro-environmental benefits.
The campaign has reached more than 34 million people globally, including 14 million people in the United States, garnering positive reaction throughout. The highly shareable and accessible video has been an easy way to simply explain a seemingly complex issue and showcase a tangible and proven solution.
A number of municipalities have already begun to scratch the surface of more sustainable ways to handle their landfill waste. Some of the nation’s smartest cities—Los Angeles; New York;, Minneapolis; Seattle; Washington, D.C.; Portland; and many more—have set ambitious recycling and zero-waste-to-landfill goals, which has led them to explore the smartest technologies that can not only keep waste from reaching landfills in the first place, but can create new, valuable materials out of the things we discard every day.
Transforming the Future
With our one-of-a-kind technology and our 90% Transformation campaign, we are showcasing our model to audiences far and wide, reaching city leaders, communities, investors, and private sector influencers alike who are keen to join this movement and share their voice.
Considering the benefits of reducing emissions through clean fuels, recycling carbon, creating long-term local jobs, and cutting pollution, it’s time for more cities—for every city—to start turning their mountains of waste to their advantage and plug into a smarter, more sustainable circular economy. And it’s on us and other forward-thinking leaders in sustainable business to continue to spread the word and help turn our trash into treasure.