JILL BOUGHTON is founder and president of Waste2Worth Innovations, the evolution of an initiative first launched during her 24-year career at Procter & Gamble. A chemical engineer by training, Jill now works on the ground in emerging regions to revolutionize the use of solid waste as a resource.
Affectionately known as “The Trash Lady,” her groundbreaking solutions are providing direct environmental, economic, and social value to communities around the world.
The 42,000-ton mountain of trash is 50 years old, seven-acres wide, and on fire. It towers over little Dagupan City, Philippines, on the South China Sea; endangering the ocean, a river, the local economy, and families who live in its shadow. Jill Boughton looks at the massive mound of steaming garbage—and sees an incredibly valuable resource.
Project by project, Jill works to prove that every piece of waste has worth. Rather than starting with technology, she begins with an extensive analysis of the trash itself. Next she dives into the local politics, economy, and culture to determine how to extract the maximum potential from the community’s waste. The solution that emerges is tailored to make the biggest positive impact—environmentally, socially, and economically.
In Dagupan City’s case, the entire economy is predicated on fishing. Sitting seaside, and at the mouth of a river, when wind and storms feed waste from the dump—particularly plastics— into the water, a crisis unfolds for both the environment and local livelihoods.
With crucial enabling capital from Dow, a new zero emissions waste-to-energy plant is set to transform plastic trash into diesel that will fuel the local fishing fleet and public utility vehicles. Rotting food at the dump sends methane gas, 26 times more harmful than carbon dioxide, into the air. In response, Waste2Worth Innovations is adapting 300 of the city’s motorized tricycles to run on natural gas converted from Dagupan City’s food waste.
With far more small cities than large in the world, Jill realizes success in Dagupan City will set an important precedent. Already, the plant is creating 92 jobs, a significant boost to the local economy.
Partnering with the city’s motivated mayor, and the help of Dow, Waste2Worth Innovations will safeguard more than the environment. Waste pickers who gather recyclables from the trash will be protected from harsh sun with a first ever roof over the dump. Pickers’ children will no longer spend nonschool hours on the mountain of waste thanks to a new day care and medical center. Without toxic plumes of smoke blanketing the city, potential health risks will be averted.
Today, Waste2Worth Innovations has expanded to Indonesia, Africa, India, and Thailand. Jill notes that in many communities, caring about trash is an understandably low priority for people struggling to put food on the table, educate their children, and stay healthy. Her transformational solutions bring a new possibility to the front, proving that sometimes waste can be the most valuable resource on earth.