Published on February 1st, 2013 | by Adam Johnston


One Person’s Trash Is The World’s Energy Treasure

February 1st, 2013 by  

We as humans throw a lot of garbage into our landfills and dumpsters, which means disaster for the environment.

Image Credit: Warning: Biofuel Sign via Shutterstock

However, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” is allowing one company to literally take this to the bank.

Bioroot Energy based in Darby, Montana is a clean fuel company targeting society’s solid, liquid and gaseous carbon wastes to help make next-generation alcohol fuels more commercially viable on the market.

According to its Facebook page, the company’s mission is to “profitably convert solid and liquid wastes, like trash, and non-crop biomass, as well as coal, methane and CO2, into a biodegradable, water soluble higher mixed alcohol fuel formula that blends seamlessly into gasoline or diesel and coal.”

You would be surprised at what is being used to produce this clean fuel which comes right out of the trash; literally. This includes shredded tires, along with refinery waste to name a few examples. Who knew tires could for something more purposeful besides driving your automobile or bicycle?

Higher mixed alcohol fuel is 95% cleaner than gasoline, which means it runs at near zero emissions, and is more energy-efficient than corn-based ethanol (138 octane rating, 30 more octane points than corn-based fuels, according to Bioroot Energy).

While some users think biofuels require modifications to their car in order to use them, the company is also making you think twice about this. Higher mixed alcohol fuel can be used in not only flex-fuel cars, but also blended between 10% to 30% with gasoline.

Bioroot’s continued presence in the renewable fuel market will certainly be helped out by the ongoing commitments of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard, which is targeting 14 million gallons of cellulosic fuel this year. It’s hoped that, by 2022, 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel will help transportation across the country.

While there has been some challenges in getting it off the ground, a 30 million gallon a year cellulosic biofuel plant is being built by Dupont in Iowa.

Given the challenges of a warming planet, and the increased economic costs of mitigating climate change, along with increased demand in energy from emerging markets, there is definitely lots of potential to turn trash into pure energy gold.

Main Source: Bioroot Energy

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About the Author

is expected to complete the Professional Development Certificate in Renewable Energy from the University of Toronto by December 2017. Adam recently completed his Social Media Certificate from Algonquin College Continuing & Online Learning. Adam also graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a three-year B.A. combined major in Economics and Rhetoric, Writing & Communications in 2011. Adam owns a part-time tax preparation business. He also recently started up Salay Consulting and Social Media services, a part-time business which provides cleantech writing, analysis, and social media services. His eventual goal is to be a cleantech policy analyst. You can follow him on Twitter @adamjohnstonwpg or check out his business

  • Otis11

    This article has a lot of potential and I would really like to see more on this topic. I’m normally the last person to say something other than point out a little thing here or there, but there were parts I had to re-read to understand what the author meant. Anyway, the biggest issues are below so that they can be corrected quickly. Please delete this comment once they are fixed, or let me know and I will delete it asap.

    “company’s mission is to make “profitably” => “company’s mission is to “profitably”

    “tires could for something more purposeful besides driving” => “tires could be used for something more purposeful than just driving”

    “Envirolene is 95% cleaner than gasoline, which runs at near zero emissions” => “Envirolene is 95% cleaner than gasoline, which means it runs at near zero emissions” unless you ment that gasoline was near zero emissions?

    “It’s hoped by 2022, 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel” => “It’s hoped that by 2022, 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel”

    “challenges in getting off the ground” => “challenges in getting it off the ground”

    “cellulosic biofuel plant is being built by Dupont in Iowa, which is also lending some credit towards a better and more environmentally sustainable fuel than regular corn.” => Consider rewording.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Around 200 million tonnes of waste is produced in UK every year which is capable of producing 4% of the total UK’s electricity and water needs.

    There’s not that much energy lurking in those steaming piles of waste.

    G. Philip Robertson and colleagues at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Biological Station have been looking at plants that don’t require farm fields.

    “First, we discovered that the grasses and flowers that take over fields once you stop farming produce a fair amount of biomass, especially if you provide them a little bit of fertilizer,” Robertson says.

    Robertson and his colleagues surveyed the Midwest acre by acre and identified 27 million acres of marginal farmland where these plants could grow, and where the acreage falls into a compact enough area that someone might want to build a refinery to produce biofuels.

    They figured that it would become too expensive to transport this heavy and bulky plant material more than 50 miles, from field to refinery.

    “At the end of the day, we discovered we could produce enough biomass to supply 30 or so of these potential biorefineries,” Robertson says.

    The 27 million acres identified in the latest study would provide less than 0.5 percent of (US) national energy demand,

    41% of all US energy is electricity. 28% of all US energy is used for transportation.

    We could, perhaps, get our airplane fuel from biofuels. It is unlikely we have feedstock enough to create biofuel for our cars and trucks.

    • Gary

      This last poster is still missing it. BioFuel does NOT have to come from an agri-crop which is planted, fertilized, copiously watered, then weeded – all before one annual harvest.

      Corn kernels provide carbon atoms as building blocks contained with corn starch. These carbons are first treated with acidic enzymes to become sugars, then inefficiently batch fermented using yeasts to produce corn ethanol which is only 10% of the whole tank of ingredients. To purify and concentrate this 10% alcohol volume takes expensive distillation followed by molecular sieving.

      I don’t believe that Jay from Bioroot is talking about a new BioFuel that comes from anything agri-based which is annually planted, watered and harvested. The same carbon atoms in his fuel’s final recipe can be cleanly obtained from garbage, beetle-killed pine, ground tires, NatGas and CO2.

      That basic carbon atom building block is identical whether it came from corn or ground tires or coal. The processing mechanisms used to isolate these alternative carbon building blocks are completely different – and the results are retiring the inefficient batch fermentation (biologic conversion) process in favor of 24×7 continuous catalytic processes employing thermal super-heated steam.

      Wake up. Please don’t assimilate ALL BioFuels with having to plant and harvest some sort of annual agri-based crop. Not at all… Big differences here. The green plant leaf in the BioFuel’s “O” on the signage is wrong. Completely bass-ackwards – yet this is the common perception.


      • Bob_Wallace

        OK, then where do you think biofuel could come from in adequate quantities excluding food and textile crop lands?

        Forget the corn you talk about in your comment. That’s a food crop.

        Forget used tires. The typical auto uses a set of tires every few years. You might get a tankful of fuel from a set of tires. (I’d be surprised if there’s “ten gallons” of fuel in a set.

        Forget natural gas. That’s a sequestered carbon that needs to be left where it is.

        Forget garbage. Only a small amount available there.

        Forget forest/lumber waste. There really isn’t that much. Probably forget bug-killed trees. Would take too much energy to harvest and transport them.

        Forget CO2. The only sources of concentrated CO2 are the smokestacks of coal and natural gas burners. That “leave sequestered carbon sequestered” thing.

        The only biofuel which I can see might have a fighting chance is algae grown in poor quality or ocean water. Grow it on large tracks of otherwise unusable land. But at this point we do not have the technology to do this.

        Setting a goal of producing enough biofuel to power half our airplane fleet might be a reasonable goal. Move the other half of our air travel to electrified high speed rail.

        • Bob,

          I didn’t realize you’d left a post just after this article was posted but felt it deserved a rebuttal. We view the same range of topics quite differently. You ask where the biofuel (higher mixed alcohol fuel) will come from if excluding food and textile crop lands. How about everywhere on the planet with no crops required?

          Massive volumes of this new, disruptive fuel formula will come from your own trash can, sir. You advise readers to forget old tires, garbage, sewer sludges, trash, biomass, and even CO2 feedstocks because they aren’t enough to matter. This is not accurate. First of all, CO2 from coal/natgas burners is a target feedstock for this GTL fuel. Combined with methane, these two GHGs converted from waste carbons to a clean, biodegradable, water soluble ALCHOL fuel are sufficient to make a huge dent in the petroleum fuel pool over time. In fact, these two gasses are the most profitable and easiest feedstocks possible for the production of higher mixed alcohol fuel.

          Regarding biomass, photosynthesis works whether it’s growing a conventional food/fuel crop or trees or algae. Algae will always be fossil intense through its lifecycle from pond scum to finished fuel, as is corn ethanol. However, a ton of woody biomass (needles, barks, branches, cones, etc.) is nothing of the sort. It’s waste that must simply be harvested, transported and efficiently converted to clean fuel. Same with what’s in your trash can or toilet. Or backyard.

          To us, a carbon is a carbon is a carbon. There’s plenty of carbon building blocks to produce the world’s strongest, cleanest alcohol fuel. Society and nature are always making more.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Sir, our trash cans don’t contain a lot of energy. We should harvest what we find there, but we won’t drive many miles on trash. Same for tires.

            I certainly did not advise people to overlook those sources. I pointed out the fact that you were hyping the potential.

            You say ” Algae will always be fossil intense through its lifecycle from pond scum to finished fuel”. That’s a silly claim.

            The pumps needed to move the water around will run on electricity as will the rest of the process.

            I’d like to see you prosper by extracting the waste in our trash stream and putting it to use. But you do your business a disservice by overselling your potential and making incorrect claims about your competitors.

          • There is no hype here, Bob. You obviously don’t grasp the potential of a clean, 138 octane, EPA-blessed alcohol fuel formula produced 24×7, efficiently, from “any” solid, liquid and gaseous waste or fossil carbons. It’s understandable. Even the guys who think they’ve seen it all struggle to interpret higher mixed alcohol fuel.

            As for the algae claims, they are anything but silly, unless you think facts are silly things, ala Reagan. Algae is silly for the same reason corn and sugarcane are silly and shortsighted. Nor is a feedstock (algae or corn) in any way a competitor. Our competitors are other companies, not feedstocks. Ask Abengoa, POET, Solazyme, Gevo or Catchlight Energy, for example, how their ag fuel projects are doing.

            If you think algae is the way to go, great. All power to you but opinions don’t drive or float the boat. Smart people keep expanding their knowledge base because nobody’s got all the answers.


          • Bob_Wallace

            I grasp the potential of a clean, 138 octane, EPA-blessed alcohol fuel
            formula produced 24×7, efficiently, from “any” solid, liquid and gaseous
            waste or fossil carbons.

            I question the total amount that can be produced.

            And I recognize that using “fossil carbons” is a fool’s errand.

            As for algae or duckweed or any other plant that can be grown without disrupting food and fiber supplies, I back it as much as I back turning trash into fuel. All these approaches have merit and will sink or swim based on their financials.

          • Thanks, glad we’re on the same page at least. As for the volume and profitability questions, we aren’t worried. Consider the methanol industry using natgas to produce massive volumes of MeOH, or coal to make power, or oil to make liquid fuels, or corn or algae to produce EtOH or biodiesel. Along comes a clean, “seamlessly” blended or neat fuel replacement/dropin for all types of petroleum fuels and coal, produced from ANY carbon, and the lower the value of these carbons, the better.

            If using fossil carbons is a fool’s errand, consider the world’s current hydrocarbon usage, and in particular, what’s happening in North Dakota. This is a ongoing fool’s errand. Our mission there is to assist oil interests in ending the practice of flaring, and monetize the Bakken’s “rich, wet” methane which is currently tossed to the sky at 266MMcf per day.


            But oil companies are just one sector where higher mixed alcohol fuel will play a role. Coal, natgas, manufacturing and cities are all facing unique but huge carbon utilization/waste issues. Production and use of this fuel is a viable, scalable carbon-bridging solution that provides a profitable way forward for the species that still hasn’t learned how to shoot straight. What fuel can “everybody” produce from their unique piles of wastes that powers all types of engines with no mods?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Well, good luck with that. But don’t damage your brand by over-claiming your production potential.

            It’s very likely we will move our personal transportation to almost 100% electric and much of our ground-based public transportation over time. But we don’t have an electricity solution for long distance, over-ocean travel and ocean shipping so some source of liquid fuel will likely be required.

  • Jay

    Thanks for the nice article, CleanTechnica! To clarify the classification of higher mixed alcohol fuel, it is not technically a cellulosic biofuel, but rather a thermally produced synthetic alcohol fuel formula composed of 8-10 simple n alcohols. Think of it as a 3rd generation advanced biofuel.

    Cellulosic biofuels (such as ethanol, butanol – both single alcohols) are derived from fermenting sugars derived from lignins in biomass, using an “ag” batch process not at all unlike making beer! To date there has been very little cellulosic ethanol produced. (Hard to make beer from wood.) And at the end of the day it’s still just 107 octane ethanol. Higher mixed alcohol fuel is a whole different animal. Here’s a brief rundown on the various renewable/alternative fuels:

    On the input side, we refer to household and municipal trash and garbage as “solid and liqiud carbons.” There are staggering volumes of other “trash” carbons too, such as flared methane and CO2. For example, North Dakota’s oil fields alone are currently flaring over 200 million cubic feet per day to the sky due to no pipelines. That’s enough methane to produce 240,000 gallons of higher mixed alcohol fuel per day.

    Our mission is to turn all these solid, liquid and gaseous carbons into the world’s strongest, cleanest and most profitable alcohol fuel. No crops (or excuses) needed.

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