Waste Management Inc. has quietly evolved in recent years from being a traditional waste recycling and disposal company into an increasingly high-tech firm. An industry leader, the company has been making strategic investments in both Canada and the United States that can help broaden its business. The company’s Organic Growth Group (OGG), its venture investing arm, has been expanding its portfolio of investments in companies working on leading-edge technologies for creating renewable energy, expanding recycling, or managing waste.
Since its inception in 2005, the OGG has grown dramatically, advancing projects it has in development as well as embarking on exciting and ambitious new ventures. Today, the OGG has a portfolio of nearly 40 acquisitions, joint ventures and investment projects at various stages of development. To support Waste Management’s (WM) growth strategy of extracting the highest value from the materials it manages, OGG is focused on four platforms for growth:
• Renewable Energy: Utilizing the entire waste stream or converting landfill gases to valuable energy sources;
• Conversion Technologies: Converting segments of the waste stream into valuable energy sources;
• Recycling Technology: Repurposing segments of the waste stream;
• Consumer Facing & Sustainability Models: Promotion of the WM brand, green messaging and sustainability through various retail and/or consumer focused business models.
Some notable investments that Waste Management has announced include:
Genomatica: A joint development agreement research and advance their proprietary technology and manufacturing processes to enable production of intermediate and basic chemicals from syngas derived from municipal solid waste.
Agilyx: WM has made an investment in this alternative energy company that converts low-value, difficult-to-recycle industrial and consumer plastics as well as contaminated and recycling residual plastics into a high-value synthetic crude oil, which can be converted into ultra-low-sulfur diesel and other transportation fuels and petroleum products.
Enerkem: WM has invested in this Canadian company, which, through proprietary thermal-chemical technology, helps convert waste materials into advanced biofuels such as ethanol , as well as renewable chemicals. Enerkem’s technology is able to process diverse carbon-based feedstocks, including sorted municipal solid waste, construction and demolition wood, and agricultural and forest residues.
Harvest Power: WM has invested in Harvest Power, a company that generates high quality compost with proprietary technology that controls odours and potential emissions. WM is providing the raw materials for Harvest Power’s composting, biogas and syngas operations and helping the company expand its operations. It’s also working with them to develop high-solids aerobic and anaerobic digestion and composting technologies, which accelerate the decomposition or organic materials to produce renewable energy.
High Mountain Fuels: WM formed a joint venture company with Linde North America to create a facility at WM’s Altamont landfill near Livermore, California, to convert landfill gas (LFG) into liquefied natural gas (LNG) to power its collection fleet. This plant — the world’s largest LFG to LNG facility — has a design capacity to produce up to 13,000 gallons per day. Using bio-methane LNG results in 90 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to natural gas from fossil fuels. The US EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program selected the facility as its 2009 Project of the Year.
InEnTec: WM invested InEnTec, to develop projects to process non-hazardous waste such as medical waste and other segregated industrial and commercial waste streams. Using InEnTec’s plasma enhanced melter/gasification technology, waste is converted into renewable energy and environmentally beneficially fuels and industrial products. The first project has been built at WM’s Columbia Ridge landfill in Arlington, Oregon.
Fulcrum: Waste Management has made an equity investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy that uses a gasification technology to produce ethanol. The investment also includes a loan agreement and a master project development agreement to jointly develop Fulcrum projects in various locations throughout the United States using municipal solid waste supplied by subsidiaries of WM under long-term feedstock agreements.
Terrabon: WM has invested in Terrabon, which, through its MixAlco™ technology (an acid fermentation process) converts biomass into organic salts. The organic salts can be converted into a high-octane gasoline that can be blended directly into s refiner’s fuel pool, avoiding many of the blending and logistics challenges presented by ethanol.
“The intent is to develop a suite of options to help WM’s customers more effectively and efficiently manage their waste streams.” These investments underpin WM’s commitment to innovative technologies that extract the value in waste and convert it into clean renewable energy, chemicals and other beneficial reuses.
Wes Muir is Director of Communications for Waste Management Inc. in Brampton, Ontario. Contact Wes at email@example.com