Administration (EIA) recently published an article the US energy information, describing an increase in the energy content of municipal solid waste (MSW). The reason for this increase is an increase in the proportion of waste from "Biogenic" sources (i.e. plastics) compared to biogenic sources (paper, cardboard, wood, food and yard waste, etc.). An average heat content of 11 MMBtu / ton, compared to 23 MMBtu / ton for non-biogenic waste has biogenic waste.
EIA attributes the relative drop in the amount of (biogenic) food containers and packaging (heat content 16.6 MMBtu / ton) and an increase of waste polypropylene (PP, 38 MMBtu / ton.) PP is the relatively tough recycled plastic #5 found in yogurt cups and other containers of wide neck, and has a much higher heat relatively easy to recycle this plastic content #1 #2 (PETE on the 20.5 MMBTu / ton and HDPE at 19.5 MMBtu.)
The higher heat content of MSW should improve the efficiency of production of electricity from MSW and margins of energy from waste companies such as MSW power generators such as Covanta (NYSE: CVA) and Algonquin Power and utilities (OTC: AQUNF, TSX: AQN), the thermal energy of MSW in addition to a large renewable energy generated give a slight boost.
If the boost is the energy content of waste to MSW-energy companies change of prices of stock this must be maintained in the long term, however. I doubt that the trend for long pauses. First of all MSW total volume are flat in the United States, and fall on a per capita basis, also during the recycling rates rise (EIA data.)
I expect, that to begin increased recycling, higher energy content materials are increasing the energy content of the remaining waste as less obtained used, reduce recycled. Currently, only 13.5% of the plastic containers in the waste stream are restored, in contrast to 71% paper and 33% of the glass. Further, high-energy PP WINS increasingly easy to recycle; I was delighted recently to that it and LDPE (plastic #4, also with a relative heating content of 24.1 MMBtu) are now accepted on my local transfer station.
While energy from waste companies a low margin thrust of higher MSW heat today content always maybe, should investors not on such an increase, which count as permanent. That is a big part of the reason, why my preferred investments in MSW integrated companies like waste management (NYSE: WM), which are from increased recycling and energy waste opportunities can benefit.