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Waste Management inks another trash-to-treasure deal

Genomatica partners with Waste Management to develop chemical products from syngas, the companies announce last week.

Candace Lombardi
In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.
Candace Lombardi
Genomatica's Bio-BDO, a chemical derived from waste currently in pilot production. Genomatica

Waste Management seems to be on a quest to see what else it can do with all that trash and recycling it collects.

The garbage collection giant signed an agreement with biotech start-up Genomatica to develop technology that would turn syngas into commercial chemical products, both companies announced last week.

Syngas, consisting mostly of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, is what gets produced when waste materials are broken down by exposure to high heat, pressure, and bacteria.

Though the particular chemicals in mind were not mentioned, it's easy to suss out what Genomatica might develop. The company already has developed a process using a strain of the e.coli bacteria to convert sugar water, and launched a pilot project making Bio-BDO, a chemical made from renewable feedstocks that can be used to produce things like spandex and commercial plastics.

Of course this is just another deal in a long list of ventures Waste Management has begun in recent months to meet its self-imposed deadline of "tripling the amount of recyclables processed by 2020."

Waste Management has already developed a process for turning landfill gas into liquefied natural gas, which it then uses to fuel some of its fleet. It has a joint venture withS4 Energy Solutions to develop gasification technologies. It's also acquired Houston-based Garick, which makes "black gold"--garden products like mulch, compost, and playground turf--from recycled organic materials. It's even begun distributing solar-powered trash compactors made by BigBelly Solar.