As the old adage goes, a good sustainable developmental policy is to ‘waste not, want not’. However, given the dominance of consumer-centric societies, the unfortunate fact is that waste is likely to remain inextricably linked to improved development. So, what do we do with the waste? The simplest answer, one followed successfully by the US till recently, was to outsource the problem—China recycled most of America’s waste till 5 years ago, when China launched operation “Green Fence”, which banned foreign garbage due to over-stretched capacity. What didn’t go to China was simply dumped into huge landfills. Waste management companies have long being trying to convert the methane generated from the waste in landfills into usable fuel, but with limited success. Now, however, a company named Clean Energy Fuels has announced that it has started selling fuel made of methane from landfills at more than 40 fuel stations in California. The company’s aim is to set up a nation-wide network of such pumps over the next few years. But what is truly incredible and heartening is that the company reportedly expects to sell 15 million gallons of fuel in California this year, more than double the amount of similar fuel the Environmental Protection Agency said would be produced across the whole of the US.
This is an extremely heartening step and not only points at how private companies can profit from green initiatives but also underlines how important government regulation can be in getting things going. In California, for example, the government has introduced a combination of powerful incentives and strict regulations so as to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. It’s a lead governments across the world would do well to follow.