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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Solid waste to fuel tourism

Yes, you read that right. If all goes well, our country’s solid waste will soon be a source of fuel, precious aviation fuel at that!

Not too long ago, my friend, business columnist Andrew Masigan, gathered together a group of media friends to have dinner with Trevor Neilson, founder and chief executive officer of Wastefuel of America, who visited the country to lay the groundwork for a sizable project that could certainly be a game-changer for our economy, for our environmental concerns, and for our tourism industry.

Wastefuel plans to put up an US$800 million biorefinery in San Mateo, Rizal, which will convert solid waste into aviation fuel. Neilson’s visit was to tap local investors who may be interested in being a part of this noteworthy endeavor. Similar projects have already been started and are in various stages of development in the USA, Panama, Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil.

Solid waste to fuel tourism
Aviation fuel made from converted waste has a carbon content that is less than 20 percent of that made from fossil fuel. 

Here in Asia, the Philippines would be the first country to have this biorefinery, a perfect choice, because of these three reasons–our continuously increasing demand for aviation fuel, thanks to our booming tourism industry; our abundance of solid waste; and our proximity to the various city hubs, like Hong Kong and Bangkok in many airlines’ worldwide routes. 

This planned biorefinery will have the capacity to process 3,500 tons of solid waste every day, producing 22.9 million gallons of aviation fuel a year, which could fill both local and international demands. This would mean P7.43 billion worth of import savings or export earnings for our country.

Consider this project’s multiplier effect on our country’s economy–the benefits it will bring to our contractors, equipment suppliers, service providers, and the jobs it will generate for our country’s scientists and engineers, not to mention the significant increase in income taxes the government will eventually earn.

The process used by Wastefuel’s technology is fully compliant with the Clean Air Act. It does not involve incineration but uses steam and pressure to convert waste into a gaseous form, after which the gas is converted to liquid, which is then refined into aviation fuel. The product of this process leaves a lighter carbon footprint and is much cheaper, certainly the much-valued qualities of a sustainable fuel a country can have.

Solid waste to fuel tourism
Wastefuel of America chief executive officer Trevor Neilson, with his wife, Evelin, who is a Filipina.

Take a closer look at these facts.  Aviation fuel made from this method has a carbon content that is less than 20 percent of that made from fossil fuel.  This means that for every minute of the aircraft’s flight, fuel from garbage will prevent one ton of trash from inundating our landfills and avoid the equivalent of four truckloads of carbon dioxide from polluting our air.

Looking at this project from any angle, we can easily see that this is a win-win investment for any corporate entity to make. Of course, from the tourism industry’s point of view, this admirable endeavor will certainly be a big help to further increase our tourist arrivals.

A big chunk of the fares that airlines collect covers the cost of fuel. If airlines can now have access to cheaper aviation fuel, fares will go down, making any destination more attractive to budget-conscious travelers.

Here’s a call to our corporate giants to take advantage of this golden opportunity and make this sound investment towards a sustainable tourism industry using sustainable aviation fuel. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine for garbage to help bring in more tourists to our country. The future is indeed here!

Your weekend chuckle

A blonde nurse was asked why she insisted on bringing along a red pen on her first day of work. Her reason–she might be asked to draw blood.


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