A Cleaner Environment

Posted: April 11, 2023

Carbon Black Global uses a patented waste reduction system

Mike Mentikov and Earl Decker stand near the autoclaves at Carbon Black GlobalCoconuts in the South Pacific islands of Tonga inspired an innovation atop the mountain outside Dunlap. It’s a system that not only could reduce the volume of waste landing in the nation’s landfills but also dramatically decrease the greenhouse gases traditional disposal methods emit.

Mike Mentikov and Earl Decker run Carbon Black Global, and they’re leading the charge in the in implementing this waste reduction effort. The company operates in a nondescript building, and the system they developed uses heat and steam to break down waste. The result is up to a 95% decrease in the volume of waste.

“It’s not an incinerator,” Decker says. “We’re not burning the waste up. It’s done in such a way that the heat processes the waste slowly. We can do it better than an incinerator.” In five hours, the system can convert about 20 large cylinders of trash and other waste to roughly a single container full of material. That translates to reducing 157 cubic feet of waste to just 15 cubic feet, Mentikov says.

In addition to reducing the volume of waste, sorting for recyclables becomes easier. As the system’s two large units that resemble giant pressure cookers use heat and steam to process waste, they also limit the generation of gases that can harm the environment. “We recycle the metals that we can, and the rest goes to a landfill,” Mentikov says. “It certainly reduces the amount of waste going to the landfill.”

As the company develops, its efforts have potential to benefit a nation running out of space for its garbage. According to Environmental Protection Agency statistics, there are 2,633 landfills in the United States, down from 3,091 just 10 years ago. In Tennessee, there are 129 landfills. But landfills are filling up fast, and the available land to create more is dwindling. “Our process dramatically increases the life of a landfill,” Mentikov says.

Island Inspiration

In Tonga, located about halfway between Australia and Hawaii, fallen coconuts presented an opportunity. Mentikov and Decker were in Tonga working on the process to use fallen coconuts to make activated carbon, a vital component in filters used to purify air and water.

However, Tongan officials had bigger concerns about the amount of trash going to their landfills, and they asked Mentikov and Decker if they could help reduce all of the islands’ waste. Decker’s research led to the development of a mobile unit, and he introduced the process in Tonga. “I knew if we could use this process to reduce municipal solid waste in Tonga, this would be fantastic, and we could adapt this process to be used anywhere,” Decker says.

He created and patented the cutting-edge system now at the heart of Carbon Black Global. The process works as well as they hoped to reduce industrial and municipal solid waste. Carbon Black Global’s operation in Tonga continues.

Setting Up Shop

While Carbon Black Global began with a mobile unit, Mentikov and Decker identified a vacant plant in Dunlap that would meet their needs. In 2015, they bought the building and began extensive research and development to create a full-scale plant, with the vision of one day building plants tailored to the needs of each customer. “Every day we’re working to see what we can do better in this process,” Decker says.

Carbon Black Global’s Advanced Thermal Chemical Conversion process has the approval of the solid waste management division of the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation. TDEC officials have met with Carbon Black Global representatives often over the past several years.

“The solid waste management division supports projects such as this that reduce, in an environmentally compliant manner, the amount of waste that would be disposed of in landfills,” wrote Lisa Hughey, director of the division of solid waste management in a letter to Carbon Black Global. “We look forward to the day that successful processing of municipal solid waste reduces the amount of waste being disposed of in landfills across the state of Tennessee.”

Carbon Black Global began working with private consultant Judi Krzyzanowski, Ph. D., an environmental scientist, back in 2016 as it secured required permits. “I’m so happy to be part of the team,” Krzyzanowski says. “This process can solve so many of the waste problems we face today. It really does reduce the impact of landfills.”

Carbon Black Global is also working with Sequatchie County government officials on a proposed municipal solid waste processing center, and the company hopes to coordinate with other local government agencies to construct similar facilities nearby.

Carbon Black Global uses the latest in computer-aided design to engineer its systems. An integrated control system monitors and logs critical data, and it’s all possible because of high-speed fiber internet through BTC Fiber. “These systems could not run without the internet,” Mentikov says. “Because this system is connected to the internet, we can be run from in the world.”

Courtesy of BTC Fiber