From Waste to Ethanol, the Mobile Way

While ethanol made from food crops loses its credibility as a green alternative energy option, other methods of ethanol production are being developed as more sustainable alternatives.

One of the companies working to create second generation ethanol out of waste is Easy Energy Systems. In May the company was honoured at the Future in Review (FiRe) technology conference alongside 11 other techie outfits. EES’s MEPS system was selected among over 1,000 technologies submitted by science luminaries around the world.

MEPS is a small-scale modular system to convert waste products to ethanol. A self-contained apparatus, it can be shipped anywhere in the world to convert local waste such as paper, crop residue and food byproducts into biofuels or electricity. Anything organically grown can turn into fuel, EES claims.

Energy Refuge caught up with Mark Gaalswyk, president and founder of EES, to find out more about the company’s product and its plans to ‘fuel the world’.

ER: What does the Future in Review selection mean to EES?

MG: It was an honor to be included as an award recipient with such a distinguished group of innovators. The Future in Review conference is an amazing event that shows that the future is full of exciting technologies that will, in fact, change the world.

ER: Can you describe how the MEPS turn waste into ethanol?

MG: The MEPS system (patents pending) consists of a series of self-contained pods, each about the size of a small scale shipping container. These pods are built in a factory on an assembly line, shipped and connected together on site like Lego blocks depending on the process requirements for the waste input. Waste materials such as crop residue, soda pop, milk whey, food waste or paper, are loaded into the MEPS system for processing. If needed, a pre-treatment process pod prepares the material for the enzymatic conversion of the waste into a sugar water solution. This solution is then automatically pumped from pod to pod within the MEPS system completing each step to further the processing into fuel grade ethanol able to be placed into an automobile or electric generator.

ER: The mobility of the system seems like a great advantage and quite revolutionary. How do you see its application across the globe?

MG: The mobility and the smaller scale size of the MEPS system is what makes it a global product. Because it is easily transportable, it makes it easier to build economically on an assembly line in a factory and then deliver it around the world. If a small semi-truck can make it to the village, a MEPS system can as well. Traditionally, ethanol producers have required large amounts of corn for large scale ethanol production which has made transportation from small rural locations or remote areas a challenge. Because of the size of our MEPS system, smaller amounts of often bulky and difficult to transport waste materials can be used for production, eliminating the transportation issue from local waste producers or farmers. As waste materials are often times a free input to the system, it is only the cost of transporting the material that becomes expensive. Thus, the smaller scale distributed systems reduce this cost and make waste materials now a very economical input for the system.

ER: Waste to energy is an expanding market. Can it make a significant contribution to solve the energy and climate crisis?

MG: There is no question that we will reduce the amount of landfills and waste. Billions of gallons of food processing waste such as milk or waste soda pop are pumped into the nation’s sewer systems, many of which could be converted into energy. A significant amount of what resides in landfills is paper and food waste. Placing a MEPS system next to any landfill would substantially reduce the amount of waste and land used. Another market is utilizing the MEPS system to reduce the amount of carbon being emitted as it converts crop residue into ethanol instead of burning it as often happens in developing countries.

Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.

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