Environmental technology company Eco Waste Solutions has gone, quite literally, to the ends of the earth for its clients—specifically Canadian Forces Station Alert (CFS Alert), an intelligence-intercept facility of the Canadian military. The base is located at the northeastern tip of Ellesmere Island, and it’s considered the northernmost inhabited place on the planet.
So, what made Eco Waste Solutions the right company for this remote military base?
In short, it’s a technology called the Eco Waste Oxidizer, which performs thermal waste conversion. “In other words,” says Jean Lucas, vice president of business development, “we burn garbage.”
The Oxidizer, a large steel machine that has the ruggedness of a tank paired with a high-tech control system and an easy-to-use touch-screen display, helps communities (including military bases and mine camps) that don’t have access to traditional waste-disposal infrastructure get rid of their trash. The remote communities are often in environmentally sensitive locations, where they often don’t want or aren’t allowed to create a landfill.
“A mine might only be there for 20 years, but you have to go back and maintain the landfill forever,” Lucas says. “You’ve now created a site of contamination that must be continually cared for.” Additionally, landfills can attract animals, which can become dependent on them as a food source. And military bases overseas often don’t want landfills in the first place because the bases have highly secure waste streams—with sensitive materials such as damaged uniforms and sometimes ammunition—that they don’t want falling into the wrong hands. “[Our technology] allows you to deal with waste immediately, as it’s generated, and in an environmentally responsible manner,” Lucas says.
The Word on Green
In her 14 years with Eco Waste, Jean Lucas has explored clean energy from the R&D side to the sales and marketing side. Here’s what she has to say about the industry’s buzzwords:
“It is great to see waste treated as a resource. Biodiesels, for example, have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take care of problematic waste streams such as used vegetable oils and cooking grease.”
“We see a lot of this in the waste business. At one time, incinerators earned a bad reputation. Since then, the technology has developed to the point that incineration is considered one of the greenest waste solutions. Europe leads the way in this thinking. However, the stigma persists in North America.”
“No matter what side of the climate debate you are on, everyone has to acknowledge that our love affair with fossil fuels needs to end. Investing in renewable-energy technologies has many positive environmental benefits and gives us greater energy security.”
In addition, the high temperature that the machines use to incinerate waste without pollution allows the communities using them to capture heat for site energy. It can be used to warm buildings; recover hot water for showers, kitchens, and laundry; and create steam for steam-turbine power generation.
“The first systems we built were for the military,” Lucas says. But the company has since expanded into a number of other markets where waste generators have limited options or other reasons to look at new ways of doing things.
Lucas has been with Eco Waste since the company was less than five years old, when it was still a fledgling start-up. Before then, she studied environmental science in university and worked in a variety of environmental jobs—from hands-on fieldwork to more-technical, policy-oriented office positions. “I’ve had a number of different environmental jobs, but this job has been kind of amazing,” she says. “I work with so many disciplines and a variety of industries.”
When Lucas came to Eco Waste, the goal was to figure out the best way to apply its technology. “The company was really trying to understand the capabilities of the technology and the potential applications for it,” she says. “We knew that it wasn’t the solution for everyone’s waste problem. We had to figure out who could benefit the most from the technology; those would be industries we would market to.”
To map out its business plan, Eco Waste did extensive research and development, testing the effectiveness of the Oxidizer on a wide range of waste. “We got to process a lot of different materials,” Lucas says. This R&D helped Eco Waste understand who its audience was and what waste types its equipment could best address.
Since then, the company has undergone a management buyout, which helped it transition from a technology-focused start-up to a business with long-term goals and a foundation for growth.
“We’re still working on design improvements to make this an even more energy-efficient technology,” Lucas says, but she adds that the focus remains on connecting with the right audience. “We can’t go after everything. We had to make tough choices about what were the best markets and which to avoid. We didn’t want to be too overextended. That can make or break a lot of clean-tech companies—trying to be too many things to too many people. We focused on key markets and found our niche.”