Turning Paper Mill Sludge Into Clean Burning Fuel

Hailed as an environmentally friendly alternative to gasoline, ethanol is usually made from some sort of plant, such as corn or beets. But this is expensive and squanders food.

Now, Bionol Corp. in Hingham, Mass., and Quadrex Corp. in Gainesville, Fla., are planning to build the first U.S. plant that produces ethanol from waste--the sludge from pulp and paper mills. The $20 million plant in Moreau, N.Y., will use bioengineered bacteria to process the waste by fermentation. Instead of paying to haul their sludge to landfills, nearby mills have agreed to pay the facility to take it. Since the plant won't have to buy its feedstock, says Bionol CEO Stephen J. Gatto, the 10 million gallons of fuel it produces annually will be cheaper than ethanol made by other methods. Over the next five years, Bionol intends to build additional plants and boost production to more than 100 million gallons of ethanol each year.