Waste Chemical Platform Converts MSW To Ethanol In Japan

Dec. 8, 2017
Sekisui Chemical Company and LanzaTech announce advance in conversion of municipal solid waste to ethanol.

20,000 L per year municipal solid waste pilot facility

Japanese diversified chemicals company Sekisui Chemical Company and carbon recycling company LanzaTech have made significant progress on a waste to chemicals platform converting municipal solid waste (MSW) to new products, according to the companies. The companies have taken an existing gasification system at a landfill site and added LanzaTech’s fermentation capability to a slipstream of the gas. They have reportedly shown that it is possible to recycle the carbon from unsorted MSW destined for landfill or the incinerator and ferment it to make new products that would otherwise come from fossil resources or sugars.

In contrast to traditional fermentation that uses yeast to convert sugars into products such as ethanol, LanzaTech ferments gases and produces ethanol and a variety of chemicals using a naturally occurring bacteria. These chemicals are precursors to plastics, rubber and synthetic fibers and can be used to produce new packaging, sneakers, cell phone covers and yoga pants while avoiding the need for more fossil resources.

The technology, which was first demonstrated in 2013 in a laboratory unit, has now been demonstrated at pilot scale achieving commercial productivity and stability targets.

"Garbage is an important resource. It is essential our society effectively utilizes this valuable and abundant resource as the ‘urban oil field’ of the future enabling the creation of a sustainable society. It is our mission to replicate this technology widely,” says Sekisui Senior Managing Executive Officer, Responsible for Corporate Research and Development Satoshi Uenoyama. 

The technology aligns with Japan’s “3R” strategy of reducing, reusing and recycling resources and supports the nationwide movement to reduce emissions by 26% below 2013 levels by 2030, according to Japan’s Paris Climate commitments.

“We must focus on using carbon for products not power, giving carbon a second chance of life,” says LanzaTech CEO, Jennifer Holmgren. “Imagine being able to look at your trash can and know that you can lock all that waste carbon into a circular system, avoiding CO2 emissions and maximzing our precious carbon resources. That is a carbon smart future!”

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