There’s no question that alternative energy is critical to helping us reduce our reliance on oil. Like our European and Chinese counterparts, the U.S. government also supports the cleantech industry with tax credits and subsidies. But despite these government policies, the renewable energy sector struggles to gain momentum here in the U.S. as it has in other countries. However, a new company is challenging the assumption that cleantech cannot succeed without government handouts and is therefore developing an innovative business model designed to help achieve self-sufficiency.
Turning Earth LLC is a 3-year-old company focusing on optimizing output from organic waste, such as kitchen scraps, leaves and twigs. It has a licensing agreement for the Aikan Technology from Denmark which allows the company to convert the organic waste into compost as well as multiple types of energy, including biogas and heat. The technology helps Turning Earth diversify its revenue streams and maximize yields from the waste. It’s a new way of thinking about cleantech and waste management. In addition to selling energy to utility companies, it can also transport the heat it generates to green houses for sustainable local agriculture, enabling farmers to continue their work even during cold weather. The company accepts waste for a lower fee than that of landfills, as an incentive for haulers to consider a new option. This could create a major revenue source for Turning Earth. Not only does its business model focus on optimization, but it also has greater flexibility and reliability than typical solar energy and other renewable energy companies.
Food waste accounts for as much as 30% of total landfill tonnage in the U.S., with only 2% being recycled or composted. While most alternative energy companies focus on solving energy and environmental problems that could be potentially catastrophic in the future, Turning Earth and companies in the organic waste category deal with problems associated with landfills that exist right now. In the US, more than $43 billion of unopened and edible food is tossed away every year. Cities around U.S. must grapple with rising costs, toxicity and limited space for landfills. This means that renewable energy companies that process organic waste have a better chance of creating a sense of urgency and gaining support at local level. Meanwhile, the world market for biogas has been growing rapidly because it’s considered a low-cost and pollution-free source of energy. With more venture funding going to this area, the awareness for this will also increase.
In Europe, all food waste is required to be recycled. The rise of organics recycling companies in the U.S. is sparking hope that Americans can increase the recycling efforts for food and other organic waste, and perhaps during the process develop a more sustainable business model for the renewable energy sector as a whole.. For the complete story, listen to the interview on Business Reinvention with Andrew Kessler, President and Co-founder of Turning Earth LLC .