Collaboration by Design

How MSW will be efficiently, economically utilized in the Tar Heel State
By Bryan Sims | August 22, 2011

Finding cost-effective means for disposing or diverting the millions of tons of MSW generated each year may be a dilemma faced by many counties and municipalities across the nation, but those in North Carolina are inching closer to finding a solution, thanks to a $93,119 grant from the North Carolina Biofuels Center to help fund a project for cost-effectively utilizing MSW for conversion into biofuels and biochemicals.

The Environmental Research and Education Foundation received the funding and will spearhead the project, “Utilizing Municipal Solid Waste as a Biofuel Feedstock,” in collaboration with Maverick Biofuels, North Carolina State University and Waste Industries USA Inc.

According to Bryan Staley, EREF president and CEO, the thrust of the 16-month-long project is to determine the potential for using MSW as a feedstock for biofuel production, such as biobutanol, by evaluating various conversion technologies such as gasification, pyrolysis and wet oxidation; and infrastructure needed to make the entire process viable at scale. Additionally, NCSU will conduct a life-cycle analysis as part of the project to assess which conversion technologies might be the most cost-effective, evaluate cost benefits and assess carbon intensity levels.

“We’re trying to develop some numbers that would bracket out the various MSW conversion technologies that are out there,” Staley says. “We’re hoping that the life-cycle analysis will be reflective of the inclusion and the exclusion of the various initial feedstock that would come in.”

Maverick Biofuels’ role will be to provide technical assistance in conversion technology, Waste Industries will provide the MSW feedstock and EREF will aggregate information on the variability of waste composition and waste generation points, as well as evaluate ideal site location, according to Staley. 

—Bryan Sims