Our world has a trash problem—a big one. Today, the global population produces more than 3.5 million tons of solid waste every single day, a number set to skyrocket above 6 million tons in just a few years.
As a global community, we’re not very good at disposing of this waste: much of our trash is buried, dumped, or burned in open fires, releasing hundreds of tons of toxic gases like methane—a greenhouse gas that is up to 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide and is a primary driver of our warming planet.
What if one of the world’s greatest challenges turned out to be one of our greatest opportunities, both for public health and for investment? Here’s what researchers, investors, and entrepreneurs should know about investing in solutions to the global waste problem: mitigating global warming is not just a moral imperative, it is a compelling financial opportunity.
The need is simply too great for the world to rely on investments made by governments or the CSR arms of companies. The global waste problem is a public health emergency: waste is one of the biggest culprits behind the global warming that threatens air quality and community’s health, exacerbates vector-borne disease epidemics, jeopardizes food supplies, and spurs climate migration that deprives families of access to basic needs.
Many scientists and business leaders are adamant that this problem is one we can and must solve. Ibrahim AlHusseini, founder and CEO at FullCycle, believes that to make real progress to mitigate global warming, we need a seismic shift in how we think about impact. He is leading a new paradigm shift around social impact, where investors and entrepreneurs embrace social impact as part of their business models, not just as a side project. With carbon-neutral gasification technology, which turns waste to clean energy through exposure to extreme temperatures, AlHusseini has results to show.
As the Managing Partner of FullCycle Energy, a series of waste-to-energy funds that are accelerating the adoption of the world’s leading waste-to-value technology, he has done this successfully. The technology works—and if fully deployed, waste gasification technology can abate gigatons of CO2 emissions, as well as drive nearly 15% of the planet’s energy needs. Plus, it’s lucrative as well.
Synova Power, the technology provider-backed FullCycle Energy, addresses both growth in waste production and increasing demand for energy. Synova’s technology generates electricity from waste more cleanly and efficiently than conventional waste-to-energy solutions. By funding innovations like modern gasification that sit at the nexus of technological efficiency and financial performance, we can end our reliance on the dangerous waste disposal techniques that drive global warming, and take steps to lower emissions—all while presenting an opportunity for investors to return a profit.
But for real progress to be made the fix the global waste problem, we need to get the whole world on board. If we can deploy small amounts of capital on a huge scale, we can create so much more impact than government or institutional investors alone. Right now, we’re far away from that point: today, nearly three-quarters of Americans know nothing about social impact funds, and just 10% report that they have invested in these funds. However, there’s tremendous opportunity here, if we create more vehicles for everyday investors and help educate potential investors about how to get involved.
Millennials are one of the best-untapped markets for climate-focused impact investments, with more money and more interest in social impact than ever before. If we can create channels for millennial investors to fund scalable, proven clean technologies, we can harness an incredible market and drive real, high-impact change. It would be ideal to have a virtuous cycle of social investment, in which awareness and capital work together to drive more momentum and energy to solve our planet’s greatest challenges.
“I’ve heard from so many people who say things like, ‘I don’t have a lot of money to invest, but I want to know my investments are aligned with my values,’” says AlHusseini. “Inclusivity, cooperation and partnership are the only way to meet the tight timelines our planet is facing.”