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Episode 170: Waste Conversion Technologies—Fantasy or Reality?

In our latest episode of NothingWasted!, we bring you a popular session from WasteExpo: Waste Conversion Technologies—Fantasy or Reality? The discussion centered on waste conversion technologies and how they apply to the waste and recycling industry. It covered some of the obstacles facing advanced recycling, such as the high price tag; creating end products that are competitive on both price and quality; unexpected construction and operation delays; lack of infrastructure and equipment; and more. Speakers also shared lessons learned and weighed in on whether there is a realistic future for advanced recycling.

Liz Bothwell

October 24, 2022

In our latest episode of NothingWasted!, we bring you a popular session from WasteExpo: Waste Conversion Technologies—Fantasy or Reality?

The discussion centered on waste conversion technologies and how they apply to the waste and recycling industry. It covered some of the obstacles facing advanced recycling, such as the high price tag; creating end products that are competitive on both price and quality; unexpected construction and operation delays; lack of infrastructure and equipment; and more. Speakers also shared lessons learned and weighed in on whether there is a realistic future for advanced recycling.

The panelists were: William B. Cooper, SVP, Strategic Partnerships, Cyclyx; Sean Gesell, VP of Business Development, Ways2H, Inc.; Christer Henriksson, President, Juno; Tex Roberts, CFO, West Coast Energy and Steve Simmons, President, Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, Inc. The session was moderated by Chris Hawn, CEO of Machinex.

Here’s a sneak peek into the conversation:

Henriksson started the discussion by noting that humans create about 2 billion tons per year of waste, much of which is recoverable but ends up instead in landfills; in other words, “We need new technologies.” His company, Juno, processes unsorted residential and commercial waste in Toldeo, Oregon, though a proprietary technique. Its “Juno Clave” is a customized autoclave that sanitizes waste, strips away plastic cup coatings, and washes food contamination from valuable commodities; it allows the company to reclaim previously un-recyclable materials. And, for every ton of waste Juno processes, that equates to approximately a one-ton reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Toledo’s diversion rate has increased 2.8 times since Juno began its operation.

Gesell then spoke about Ways2H, which utilizes a waste-to-hydrogen technology in its facility in Tokyo, Japan, and soon in Claremont, California and elsewhere. He noted that, “We can take all sorts of forms of municipal solid waste, and we have a lot of flexibility regarding quality variation and contamination.” In detailing the company’s process, he noted that it is “self-sufficient and self-balancing.” In a given year, Ways2H’s clean energy is approximately equivalent to taking 3,000 passenger vehicles off the road, while also providing enough energy to fuel approximately 300 vehicles per day. Gesell noted that the company’s technology and its mobile units are especially useful in remote communities and for disaster relief.

Cooper went on to talk about how Cyclyx is focused on chemical recycling. He talked about the current challenges with plastic recycling at large scale and how Cyclyx’s “new approach” is able to help tackle many of these. It focuses on the chemical characterization of feedstocks (all plastics) to “bridge the waste industry with the chemical industry.” It is now developing its first facility in the Houston area to support Exxon; it will be designated to take all plastics in all forms and “simplify participation.” He also noted the importance of providing incentives for participation in plastic recycling.

Simmons discussed a project his company is working on, called the Kent County Sustainable Business Park, which is an integrated material recovery and manufacturing complex in Michigan. It was designed with a vision of reducing landfill waste by 90%. Groundbreaking is expected in 2025. He noted several keys to success on the project so far; these include: visionary leadership in the public sector agency, acknowledgement that doing the right thing will cost more in the near term than landfilling, a multidisciplinary project development team, and extensive public outreach and communication.

Roberts wrapped up the presentations by speaking about how his firm diverts and repurposes organic waste and livestock waste in central California. They get their inputs from Bakersfield’s main receiving site for the purposes of conversion to renewable energy and renewable agriculture. The company’s mission is to eliminate the need for landfills through public-private partnerships.

Listen to the full episode above.

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About the Author(s)

Liz Bothwell

Head of Content & Marketing, Waste360

Liz Bothwell is head of content and marketing for Waste360, proud host of the NothingWasted! Podcast, and ghostwrites for others to keep her skills sharp and creative juices flowing. She loves family, football, her French bulldogs, and telling stories that can help to make the world a more sustainable place.

Follow her on Linkedin or Twitter

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