We're a Climate Fund -- Why Start with Waste?
FullCycle is a private equity firm focused on accelerating solutions to the climate crisis, investing in companies that harness proven technologies to address climate change and deliver attractive financial returns. So why is our portfolio highlight focused on waste? Methane.
At release, methane’s global warming potential is 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Although it gradually degrades into CO2, it is 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after its release and 25 times more powerful in the first 100 years afterward.
Globally, concentrations of methane have grown by more than 150% in the last two centuries to the point that today, methane is responsible for 20% of the planet’s greenhouse gas warming potential. A shift in our waste management systems could enable a radical reduction in its production and tip the scales on climate change.
When we think about methane, we typically connect it to cows. However, a high percentage of methane is created by organic waste decaying in landfills. In the United States, 14% of our methane emissions come from landfills; globally, solid waste management produces greenhouse gases at a rate of more than 1.6 billion tons each year — about 5% of global emissions.
Projects to track methane emissions are on the rise. A recent NASA reportshowed that 10% of methane-producing sites in California are responsible for more than half of the state’s total methane emissions, and that 0.2% of these sources — primarily landfills — are “super emitters” that account for as much as 46%. In 2017, Google announced that it had augmented Street View mapping cars with methane sensors.
Monitoring is important, but it’s not a solution. FullCycle has invested in Synova, an innovative, clean-tech company transforming trash — including plastic — into valuable resources such as energy, fuel, and high-value chemicals like plastic feedstock, while dramatically limiting emissions of toxic chemicals and particulate matter. Synova’s waste to value system can radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by diverting waste from landfills, reducing methane emissions, and providing a massive a carbon return on investment.
Why not simply capture methane? It’s true that greenhouse gas capture programs are in place at nearly 8% of landfills, worldwide. Experts also suggest that curbing emissions can be achieved by better composting, which diverts organic matter from the anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment of a landfill to an aerobic environment. Composting reduces methane to a less potent greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, but wastes the resource.
In contrast, Synova presents an opportunity to shift to a more efficient and effective way of managing waste altogether, while helping to solve the climate crisis. Our analysis shows that over 20 years, a Synova clean gasification plant providing power to a developing economy will save four tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per ton of waste diverted from landfill, and 0.3 tons of CO2e per ton of waste in a developed economy. In the developing world, a $1,000 investment in a Synova plant is as much as 14 times more effective at CO2e avoidance over the first 20 years than solar or wind power. (Please contact email@example.com to request a copy of this study.)
At FullCycle, we envision a future where Synova plants eliminate landfills, empowering communities to create healthier environments. Fully deployed, Synova plants present the opportunity to save more than five gigatons of CO2e annually, while also helping to solve our critical waste and plastic pollution problems and producing valuable chemicals, energy, and fuel.
There’s no room for wasted methane in this clean future.