The movie Idiocracy paints a bleak (yet hilarious) picture of a future overtaken by thousand-foot-high landfills that topple over into the streets. Fortunately, a Montreal-based biofuel and green chemical company called Enerkem has taken the first step to preventing such a future with its Mississippi trash-to-ethanol plant.
The Enerkem ethanol process uses a gasifier to break down waste
material into a synthetic gas made of CO2 and hydrogen, which is then converted in ethanol or other chemicals.
Enerkem’s $250 million project will produce 20 million gallons of ethanol each year from household trash and feedstock from agricultural activities. The production facility will take a major step towards cutting down trash piles by diverting 60% of municipal solid waste from Mississippi’s Three Rivers landfill and turning it into ethanol.
The company is also working on a Quebec plant that will convert used utility poles into ethanol, as well as a 10-gallon feedstock-to-ethanol plant in Alberta.
Ethanol from feedstock is undoubtedly a worthy endeavor, but it’s Enerkem’s trash-to-ethanol idea that really piques our interest. Ethanol demand is growing rapidly. At the same time, entire countries are running out of landfill space. So why not take care of two issues at once and turn all that excess trash into ethanol? Not only will it reduce the pressure on corn farmers to provide fuel instead of food, it will also created much-needed jobs.