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In our modern world, waste is a dilemma.
Municipal solid waste landfills were the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States in 2019, equivalent to greenhouse gas emissions from more than 21.6 million passenger cars driven for one year. And we as a society are generating even more waste.
In a truly sustainable world, the solution to the waste problem is for it to be reduced, reused, or composted. Materials wouldn't be thrown away because they would be designed to have residual value, and systems would be in place to capture it - think circular economy.
But in a world where the circular economy ins't the norm yet, and where land-scarce countries face a dilemma about their land use, trash needs to be dealt with. Many cities and countries have chosen convert waste to energy. They do this primarily by incineration.
Waste-to-energy: a second-best solution.
Waste-to-energy needs to be done cautiously. Incineration facilities need to be state-of-the-art, burning at extremely high temperatures, equipped with scrubbers and filters. Otherwise, a host of toxic byproducts from the incineration can be released into the air.
From an emissions perspective, converting waste into energy is better than landfills. Waste-to-energy plants create energy that might otherwise by sourced from coal- or gas-fired power plants. Their impact on greenhouse gases is positive when compared to methane-creating landfills.
Project Drawdown considers wast-to-energy as a transition solution - one that will decline as preferable waste-management solutions, including zero waste, composting, and recycling, become more widely adopted globally. But waste-to-energy can help avoid up to 3 gigatons of greenhouse gases by 2050 if the electricity it generates can account for 0.3% of total electricity generation worldwide.
Here are the companies making it happen.
We carefully scrutinize all waste-to-energy companies that are publicly traded on US stock market. We first take out penny stocks whose share prices were lower than $0.50 in our last update.
Of the remaining companies, only those passing one of the two following criteria get included in the Climate Index: the company needs to derive more revenue from waste-to-energy solutions than from fossil fuel-dependent products and services; or if the company operates landfills, it needs to capture the gas arising from more than 50% of those landfills.
If you are a Carbon Collective member, you own all of these companies through the Climate Index.
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|PyroGenesis Canada Inc. (PYR)||
PyroGenesis makes plasma solutions that can produce solar-grade silicon as well convert waste into energy. Waste-to-energy can cut methane emissions