Meet startups that are making money by inventing new waste disposal methods...
By Jeffrey Gangemi
Forget the recycling bin. Meet the waste conversion pioneers-startups that reduce the costs and pollution associated with traditional waste disposal methods. These companies convert solid waste into marketable materials or energy sources, or sell services and equipment that improve the disposal process itself.
Read on for profiles of four such small businesses.
Hotter Than the Sun: Startech Environmental
Startech Environmental's pioneering technology sounds like something out of a science-fiction movie. Using a process that heats plasma to three times the temperature of the surface of the sun, the publicly traded company's device, called the Plasma Converter System, disintegrates waste by tearing apart molecular bonds. The device can convert nonhazardous and hazardous substances (including industrial byproducts, medical waste, and chemical industry waste) into valuable products such as ethanol and synthetic diesel fuel. Startech's first customer, the U.S. Army, bought one of the converters to dispose of chemical weapons. Today, waste disposal outfits and chemical manufacturers also buy the units.
Less Trashy: Seahorse Power
Seahorse Power manufactures the BigBelly, a solar-powered cordless trash compaction system. The efficient system's motor turns motorcycle chains that bring down a metal ram that compacts garbage, giving the unit about five times the capacity of a regular trash can. The company is also developing new systems for municipal recycling stations and for corporate clients.
Power Shake: Feed Resource Recovery
Instead of letting organic waste add volume to landfills, Feed Resource Recovery uses it to produce biomethane and a potent organic crop fertilizer through anaerobic digestion technology. The system essentially harnesses the natural process of decomposition, recovers leftover biofuel energy, then converts it into electricity. Feed Resource Recovery manufactures units that can be installed in stores, manufacturing plants, or restaurants, providing a seemingly endless pit for organic refuse, a power source, and a way to reduce garbage disposal bills.
Treading Lightly: Lehigh Technologies
Lehigh Technologies produces rubber powder from scrap tire and waste rubber feedstock. Its manufacturing process works like this: Scrap feedstock, which it gets for cheap from rubber recycling businesses, is cleaned of all residual steel and fiber, sent through a cooling tunnel where it is frozen using liquid nitrogen, then ground and pulverized. The end product is ultra-fine particles in various tiny gradients that can be sold to tire manufacturers, paint companies, and plastics companies as a cheap replacement for petroleum.
Garbage 2.0 | BusinessWeek