Having spent over 40 years in the global waste management and recycling business, including a decade as chief executive then chairman of Waste Management International plc, Ed Falkman had grown sceptical about the prospects for waste treatment via pyrolysis. But in 2014, he was persuaded to visit Standard Gas’ Huntingdon demonstration facility, where he encountered a re-conception of the technology that completely changed his mind.
“It was the first truly effective, viable thermal cracking technology I’d seen,” Ed recalls. “And it was capable of turning virtually any waste, and particularly non-recyclables, into a clean, renewable gas for energy generation, transport fuels, and chemicals, while also producing a residual char – or biochar – that removed carbon and had potential valuable end-uses in a range of products from construction to agriculture.”
Convinced about the potential of Standard Gas’ technology, Ed first invested in the company, then agreed to commit his extensive business experience as its Executive Chairman.
A former chair of the International Chamber of Commerce’s Environment Commission, and an executive board member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Ed has long believed in the necessity of a Circular Economy. In 1996, he authored Sustainable Production and Consumption: A Business Perspective, published by the WBCSD, and has played a leading role in seeking to foster co-operation between governments, the private sector, academia and NGOs and the United Nations towards meeting Sustainable Development objectives.
“If we are to achieve a ‘Circular Economy’, then reusing and recycling waste has to be a key part of our efforts,” Ed insists. “Worldwide waste generation is currently around 2 billion tonnes a year and increasing exponentially. And while recycling capacity is expanding, huge quantities of waste remain non-recyclable, or hard-to-recycle or reuse. Sizeable amounts of waste are landfilled or incinerated to generate heat or power, although both have emissions issues, particularly with respect to CO2. The exceptional aspect of the Standard Gas process, in contrast to landfill and incineration, is that it is carbon negative due to the carbon captured and sequestered from the waste in the char.”
Millions of tonnes of waste – including much purportedly exported for recycling – are simply dumped or discarded into the environment. In recent years, and pretty much continuously, our news media – often using NGO research – have highlighted stories of discarded waste, much of it exported, polluting the world’s countryside, rivers, beaches and oceans.
“Our throw-away culture is part of the problem,” continues Standard Gas’ chairman. “But a significant factor is the lack of appropriate and effective recycling and reuse technologies that can convert this waste into useful, valuable products. I’m excited that Standard Gas has developed a technology that can fill this void and make a real contribution to decarbonising our economy. We’re not the only answer to the Net Zero challenge. But we are an important element in a range of technologies needed to meet that challenge.”