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Throw That Half-Eaten Hotdog in the Gas Tank: Turning Waste Into Fuel

By Kyle Martin

October 2012 - The next time you feel guilty for using a Styrofoam cup, or if you are one of the few who worry about what will happen when the landfills are overwhelmed with waste, companies like Renmatix, INENTEC, and Enerkem are coming up with new innovations that will soon make garbage more valuable than fossil fuel. Aside from creating alternative fuel sources, these three companies have also created a plausible way to reduce landfill waste, and hopefully help to eliminate excess waste altogether. If you're curious about what is involved in big business waste disposal and how recycling and waste management is changing for the better, read on.


A start up that has discovered a low cost way to convert biomass like garbage into sugars that are then used as fuel, Renmatix is using Supercritical water, or high pressure and high temperature water for this conversion to take place. This innovative waste management and treatment facility recently received a considerable leg up from BASF, the world's leading chemical company, to the tune of a $30 million dollar investment. Their main source materials that are broken down into the fuel sugars are "urban waste streams" like wood, foodstraps, construction and demolition debris and pulp and paper waste.


A waste management company started by S4 Energy Solutions has found a way to turn waste into fuel without producing dangerous harmful emissions, by way of a plasma gasification. By using this energy conversion method, S4 is able to transform recyclable and non-recyclable waste into useful products like hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which can then be used for fuel or for other applications; hydrogen is also found in ammonia and fertilizers. The energy harnessed in everyday garbage is released through a process that involves shredding, heating, vaporizing the waste, which then becomes syngas (a useful synthetic form of natural gas). There is perhaps 15 percent of the originally processed material leftover, which can be easily broken down again when the process is repeated.


Based in Montreal, Canada, Enerkem is a waste management and fuel conversion plant led by Vincent Chornet. The startup attracted the eye of Valero, a major independent fuel refiner. Valero invested a total of $130 million towards Enerkem's newest plant in Quebec, where they have found a safe and efficient way to produce fuel at a practical rate. Last year the facility was able to produce a total of 1.3 million gallons of fuel and with the recent funds invested, Enerkem plans to build a larger plant in Edmonton, Alberta that should produce close to 10 million gallons of fuel.

Additionally, Enerkem has received a $50 million grant from the United States Department of Energy that will assist in the completion of Edmonton's U.S. twin facility, located in Tupelo, Mississippi. Both the Edmonton and Tupelo facilities will likely process 100,000 tons of waste every year, which should put a nice dent in the amount of garbage that causes harm to our environment.

Alternative energy production plants have much more than saving money on their minds, they're also concerned with saving the environment and finding efficient ways to do so and fortunately fuel refineries are catching on to this trend and understanding how important alternative fuels are.

Kyle Martin Kyle is a vegan who is passionate about recycling. He is a freelance journalist who writes advice articles about incorporating sustainable living into our closets, cabinets and communities. makes minimal use of cookies, including some placed to facilitate features such as Google Search. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to the use of cookies. Learn more here

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