One’s Trash—Another’s treasure?

Expecting a 10-15 percent annual rise in the global recycling market, the head of a French environmental services group has his eye on proverbial diamonds in the rough, or rather, raw materials in the rubbish. “The waste streams of developed countries are a real mine for raw materials, and even if we do not become a mining company, our recycling activities increasingly compete with the mining industry,” Veolia CEO Antoine Frerot recently told Reuters.

Today, the company is upping its efforts in waste management at a time when the once explosive growth in its privately operated water provision has begun to wane, Reuters reports.

Likewise, the Houston-based Waste Management (WM) is doubling down on trash-to-energy opportunities, aiming to equip 2 million households with waste-based energy by 2020. Currently, the company provides 472,000 households with energy harnessed from gas captured at landfills, says Zacks Equity Research.

That goal, articulated in the company’s semi-annual 2014 sustainability report, “Creating a Circular Economy,” shortly before the new year, is part of a larger effort to create a “zero waste” program among customers. Among its composite strategies are solutions intended to reduce waste and increase recycling, investment in compost processing facilities and biogas technologies, and management of natural gas fueling stations for a growing fleet of alternative fuel trucks, according to Business Wire.

One of the newest technologies that WM is utilizing is SpecFUEL, an engineered fuel made from post-recycled mixed waste that can be utilized in industrial boilers and kilns as a replacement for fossil fuels, reports Biomass Magazine. WM opened a SpecFUEL plant in Philadelphia in early 2014.

Veolia hopes that increased emphasis on waste-to-energy will balance out its revenue mix, with roughly a third of revenue coming from water, waste and energy (the current mix is 45, 35, and 20 percent, respectively), according to Reuters. CEO Frerot says the strategy is to develop new technologies and offer less competitive services rather than buy or merge with competitors.  Reuters reports that the company’s first-half 2014 net profit more than doubled, and shares are up 20 percent  in the past 12 months, putting it  in third place in the French CAC40 blue-chip index.

First Closed Loop Organic Waste System in North America

And the first closed-loop fully-integrated organics waste management system in North America is being developed in the city of Surrey, British Columbia.

Iris Solutions, part of UK-based waste to product company, Shanks Group plc, will build Surrey’s organic waste biofuel processing facility, which will process 115,000 tons of residual kitchen and garden waste from Surrey each year to create a renewable gas, which can then be used to power the city’s natural gas waste collection trucks.  It is expected to be operational in 2016.

The facility will be the largest of its kind in Canada with a capacity to process 100% of the City’s organic waste, along with commercial organic waste, helping Metro Vancouver achieve its regional 70% waste diversion target.


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