Waste Management has entered a partnership that may bring revolutionary changes in how urban garbage is handled and that could result in the refuse being used to produce renewable chemicals and fuels.

Houston-based Waste Management and Renmatix, a private company based in King of Prussia, Pa., today announced they entered a joint development agreement to see if sugars can be extracted from WM's waste stream and used to produce low-cost alternatives to fossil fuels.

Renmatix has a proprietary Plantrose process that can be used to convert rural waste -- such as wood and agricultural residue - into sugars. "We are working with Renmatix to further scale its technology, which has quickly emerged as the lowest-cost conversion method for producing the bio-based sugar intermediates demanded by global markets," said William Caesar, president of Waste Management Recycling Services, in a press release.
This deal is the first-of-its-kind for Renmatix and is anticipated to generate immediate revenue for the company. It will investigate the viability of extracting sugars from the kind of waste collected by the garbage giant: source-separated recyclables, food scraps, construction and demolition debris, and pulp and paper waste. The companies aim to determine how these materials can be reduced to cellulosic sugar and leveraged for production of renewable chemicals and fuels.

If Renmatix can produce sugars used in fuel production from the kind of refuse collected by Waste Management, the two companies may bring dramatic changes to the biofuels industry. Rather than using food, such as corn, in alternative fuel production, garbage could be used instead. "We have almost 7 billion people on the planet to feed. I don't think we can afford to divert our precious food sources to make chemicals for fuels," says Dr. Manuk Colakyan, Renmatix's chief technology officer, in a company video that explains their process.