How Innovation Can Address One of the Most Pressing Environmental Issues

October 2, 2017


Ways innovation can address one of the most pressing environmental issues and drive the circular economy.

Editor’s Note: Enerkem is a sponsor for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Business Delegation Tour: The Circular Economy in Action located in New York City. Enerkem’s Vice President, Business Development, North America, David McConnell, spoke at the event. Click here to learn more about the tour.

When it comes to best practices and innovative approaches, companies often lead the way in driving education, growth, competitiveness, and innovation. Nevertheless, some of the more “conventional” industries remain motionless or are not doing as much to leverage untapped potential value of their resources. One such area is waste disposal.

Despite rising awareness among communities around important environmental issues and an increased sense of urgency to act on greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, the world continues to generate massive amounts of waste. According to recent studies, about 1.3 billion tons of waste are generated each year and 70 percent are still either landfilled or incinerated.

Most cities here in the United States are struggling with huge challenges when it comes to waste management. Options are still limited to landfilling for the most part or incineration, albeit the efforts and programs put in place to recycle or even compost organic waste. But these alone won’t suffice to overcome or resolve waste disposal issues.

Instead, imagine if you could fuel your car with trash – as depicted in the movie Back to the Future. That is exactly the type of disruptive technology Enerkem brings to market today. By using household waste as a feedstock and recycling the carbon contained in trash to produce renewable chemicals and biofuels, this innovative solution helps accelerate the development of a circular economy where waste becomes a resource. It equally answers the question of how to dispose of rapidly accumulating non-recyclable and non-compostable garbage, while preventing greenhouse gas emissions from waste buried in landfills, and creating value-added everyday products like paint, glues, solvents, textiles, plastics as well as clean and renewable transportation biofuels.

Each of Enerkem’s advanced biorefineries have the capacity to process several hundred thousand tons of mixed municipal solid waste per year. It takes less than five minutes to transform waste into advanced low-carbon transportation biofuel – enough to fuel over 200,000 cars on a 10 percent ethanol blend.

Using innovative clean technologies can help communities meet and even possibly boost their local waste diversion objectives, while also achieving advanced biofuels mandates or regulation in several parts of the world. There is a smart and sustainable alternative to waste disposal. Finally!