MaRS Cleantech Breakfast - Turning Trash into Money - not sexy enough?

February 17, 2011

Attendance at the Cleantech in Canada Breakfast Seminar at MaRS was a bit thin. Could it be that the talk on trash was just not sexy as a banker in attendance put it?

Apart from keen students who peppered Richard Fish, CEO of AlterNRG, with questions about the efficiencies of its plasma technology, the other panellists (Alan Evans, a Partner at Enviropure Systems and Pushkar Kumar, founder and CEO of GreenMantra Recycling Technologies) received nary a follow on question. Finally a CEO of another waste to energy firm stood up and asked at what point the derivatives of these processes become raw materials again as opposed to garbage.

Among the panellists was also Geoff Rathbone, General Manager of Toronto’s Solid Waste Management Services, who spoke about the city’s track record of diverting a solid chunk of household waste away from landfill. He also spoke of the need to tackle the residual hard-to-recycle solid waste and the role that new technologies can play. The fact is that there is now a rehabilitation solution for virtually every component of the waste stream including energy-from-waste technologies like AlterNRG’s.

Whether you are producing electricity, ethanol or green chemicals, in reality these “waste” streams have inherent value. If Cleantech is to fulfill its promise of recasting the industrial landscape, industrial conglomerates, and not just municipalities, will need to be early and eager adopters of these technologies and look to capture and direct the efficient use of their ‘tailings’.

Perhaps we really should find a new moniker for this area of Cleantech to reflect its value as a resource and not waste. Perhaps then events like this would capture the imagination and interest of not just entrepreneurs, investors and government but industry on the whole.


About the Author

Lenka Los is Vice President of Emerging Markets at the StoneWood Group and a leader in the firm’s Cleantech practice. She is based in the firm’s Toronto office.