University of Waterloo
Ontario, Canada 2010
Currently, the predominant method of curbside waste management in the world is landfill. Landfills are unsustainable and environmentally harmful. Every year in America over 330 million tons of garbage makes its way to one of 1,754 landfill sites where capacity concerns, leachate contamination and greenhouse gas emissions occur. Existing alternatives to landfills fall short in several ways as they use more energy than they output, have little flexibility in waste input composition, or are difficult to scale to varying populations. ReThink Energy, a joint venture between Elementa Group and Technology Convergence Inc., proposes an alternative waste processing solution that not only eliminates the need for landfills but produces methanol, a valuable and versatile biofuel, with increasing demand in global markets. Working alongside existing curbside waste pick-up programs, ReThink Energy collects tipping fees from municipalities, and then converts waste into methanol through a patented process that is carbon-neutral.
ReThink Energy’s process is unique in that it produces methanol using municipal solid waste instead of fossil fuels or methane. This attribute allows the process to be entirely carbon neutral and yield clean methanol. The spot market for methanol in the United States is $1.25B annually and is primarily supplied by a single distributor, Methanex. The market for waste processing in the United States is approximately $20B annually and is particularly attractive for ReThink Energy's offering. Currently, landfill alternatives account for only 1% of waste disposal in the United States, leaving a large market share available to capture as landfills are increasingly less viable and municipalities turn to other solutions. As well, growing investment in “green” technology make the economic conditions for this opportunity increasingly attractive. ReThink Energy is poised to capitalize on 15% of this $21B opportunity over the next ten years. Investment is needed to roll out customized municipal facilities. The Landfill Crisis
There are 1,754 landfills managed by municipalities to handle the 330 million tons of garbage produced by Americans every year.1 Since 1988 the number of landfills in the United States has decreased by 22% due to a rise in large-scale, conglomerated landfill centers (called megafills), all of which struggle with sustainability. With over 10,000 landfill sites have been closed in the last 20 years, states with a high density population have increased their production of garbage and the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) they ship out-of-state; a method that incurs higher costs and increasing carbon footprint. Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, Ohio and Alabama are the nation’s top waste importers accepting millions of tons of garbage from urban centers like New York and Toronto, Canada. Though solid waste management associations report that these larger conglomerated landfill sites have increased waste capacity up to 30 more years, the reality is that landfills are not a permanent solution to waste disposal. In addition, landfills are responsible for a large number of harmful environmental and health impacts. Research indicates the following: * Municipal landfills and their leachate (water) and air emissions are hazardous. Municipal landfills can accept hazardous waste under federal law. An unlimited number of 'conditionally exempt small generators' of hazardous waste have access to municipal landfills2 * All landfills will eventually fail and leak leachate into ground and surface water. Plastics are not inert. State-of-the-art plastic landfill liners and plastic pipes allow chemicals and gases to pass through their membranes, become brittle, swell, and breakdown *