News & Announcements Blog / News

Babson Energy and Environmental Conference: No Room To Waste In The Future

On the surface, Millipore and Harvest Power don’t have much in common.

Millipore is an international biosciences company that makes laboratory testing equipment. Harvest Power is a young startup that converts food waste in to natural gas and high quality soil products.

Yet, when the CEO/Founders of the two companies took the stage at Knight Auditorium at the Babson Energy and Environmental Conference, it became clear both leaders aim to differentiate by cutting waste.

Martin Madaus, the CEO and founder of Millipore, and Paul Sellew, co-founder and CEO of Harvest Power, were the closing keynote speakers in Babson’s day-long sustainability event. Led by WBUR radio host Tom Ashbrook, both delved into the way their companies have made gains in profitability and corporate social responsibility through eliminating waste.

In Madaus’ case, 70 percent of his company’s products are consumables, which require a lot of energy to manufacture and create a lot of waste when they have reached the end of their useful life. In 2006, he implemented a top-down strategy to cut energy consumption and waste, and expected resistance within his ranks. Instead, Madaus was amazed to find most of his workers were on-board.

“The company wanted to do this, and I didn’t know,” he said.

By 2011, Madaus aims to cut energy use and waste by 20% by targeting manufacturing, facilities and transportation. Though the challenge has been difficult, he said the company is on track in part due to the gains made in the U.S.

Sellew also aims to save electricity and reduce waste by taking full-advantage of the stored solar energy in food waste. Using an anaerobic process, Harvest Energy converts food waste into natural gas, which in turn is converted into electricity, and soil products that can be used on farms, gardens and lawns. His company has opened the first power plant in North America fueled by compost.

Sellew said similar facilities could produce up to 20 percent of the U.S. electricity need if we divert all of our food waste and pulp paper waste away from landfills and into composters.

“If it’s not going to consumption, I think the highest and best use is conversion back into energy and high quality soil products,” Sellew said.

Yet Madaus said the biggest challenge to these initiatives in the U.S. is attitude. While recycling and the green movement became popular in his native Germany back in the ‘70s, “that level of pressure does not exist in the U.S.A… (but) the awareness is increasing now and I think there is an opportunity.”

– Andrew Lightman M’11