In Edmonton, Alberta, an idea that could drastically change how we produce energy as well as how we dispose of our waste has finally come to fruition.
Edmonton’s new Waste Management Center converts household garbage into biofuels. The facility is expected to reduce the amount of trash in Edmonton’s landfills by 90% in the next two years, using all of that trash to create biofuels.
Vincent Chornet is the CEO of Enerkem, the company who owns the new plant. He describes their raw materials as,
“a mixture of non-recyclable plastics, non-recyclable fibre, there’s wood, there’s even such things as shingles — that gets shredded down and that’s what we are fed with.”
That shredded non-recyclable waste is converted to gas, which is in turn converted into methanol. The process leaves behind about 10% of the waste, including metal, ceramics and glass which can’t be converted into methanol.
Methanol has a number of uses. It’s often used in windshield wiper fluid because it won’t freeze in cold weather, but it can also be used as a basic chemical building block for other chemicals. A significant portion of the methanol will be purchased a local chemical company and some will end up in Canadian cars, as Alberta mandates at least 5% methanol in all gasoline.
At $75 per metric ton (~1.1 U.S. tons), the process is only slightly more expensive than transporting the waste to a landfill, and won’t require citizens to change anything about how they dispose of their garbage.
Edmonton’s mayor Don Iveson (who, by the way, looks like he’s still in high school) calls the new facility a “sexy” topic for the cities inhabitants. He also said,
“I think we are fiercely proud of what we’ve been doing here in this city. It’s one of the things that when people question the commitment of Edmontonians and Albertans to the environment, we point to this as global leadership and we’re very, very proud of it, and we should be.”
Read more from the Edmonton Journal here.