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February 22, 2023

Data & Technology

The Future of Waste Management: 5 Emerging Trends and Predictions

See how new waste management technologies are turning waste into fuel, new products, and reusable materials for an eco-friendly future.

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Waste Management Sign

As environmental awareness has grown and regulations have tightened, the waste industry has had to adapt and innovate. New technologies and approaches enable more sustainable and efficient waste management practices. 

Waste management has evolved dramatically in recent decades, from simple landfills to complex systems that minimize garbage and maximize resource recovery. In this article, we will look at five of the most promising trends that are shaping the future of waste management.

#1: Chemical Recycling

Chemical recycling plants use innovative techniques like gasification, pyrolysis, and solvolysis to transform waste into useful intermediate products and petrochemical alternatives. The materials recovered through chemical recycling can serve as high-value secondary raw materials rather than being discarded or downcycled.

The benefit of this circular economy approach is that these secondary raw materials can directly replace virgin materials in manufacturing supply chains. This strategy reduces the reliance on extracting and processing natural resources, while also lowering carbon emissions. 

Some companies use  chemical recycling technology to create new fibers from discarded textiles, diverting clothing waste from landfills. Consumers can buy products made of reused polyester, recycled cotton, or garments made from cellulose threads, extending the lifespan of formerly disposable materials.

#2: Designed Decomposition

Cutting-edge innovations in decomposition are transforming the future of waste management. New scientific advancements enable  faster and more efficient breakdown of organic and synthetic materials. Designers are now creating products with their full life cycle in mind, from production to biodegradation.

One key innovation is enhanced biodegradable plastics. While biodegradable plastics have existed for some time, new techniques dramatically accelerate  their decomposition rate through microbial action. These enhanced biodegradable plastics can decompose into water, carbon dioxide, and biomass at unprecedented speeds.

Innovations include specially engineered enzymes and microbes that accelerate the breakdown of organic solid waste. This process produces nutrient-rich compost and speeds up natural decomposition. Microorganisms could also be used to reclaim metals and other valuable resources from electronic waste.

Composting and closed-loop recycling reflect a shift in philosophy—prevention at the source is often more impactful than end-of-life waste disposal.

#3: Recycling Robots

While traditional mechanical recycling offers the most profitable way to recover valuable materials from trash, it faces two key challenges. These challenges are contamination and a lack of workers. Enter the recycling robot revolution.

Startups are developing AI-powered robots that automate sorting lines through advanced computer vision and robotic picking. These autonomous sorting systems can rapidly classify different materials and grab targeted items off the line with ultra-fast mechanical arms, dramatically affecting recycling rates.

Recycling facilities equipped with intelligent sorting robots can optimize operations, reducing labor expenses while improving quality control over waste streams. The robots work tirelessly to pick perfectly, minimize errors, and rapidly increase the volume of materials processed.

#4: Smart Waste Solutions

Waste and recycling technology has undergone a significant transformation in recent years. The integration of cutting-edge technology has revolutionized waste collection, processing, and management. This technology includes smart waste bins, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, and artificial intelligence.

IoT sensors installed in waste containers, transfer stations, and landfill sites provide real-time data on waste levels. Integrated platforms such as our eTrac system allow businesses to see their waste metrics at a glance. These platforms provide information on  the waste composition and estimates of landfill space and greenhouse gasses saved.

Data and waste tracking are key to developing effective waste management strategies. Companies adopting  innovative technologies will be well-positioned to achieve waste reduction goals, cut costs, and remain competitive in a rapidly evolving industry.

#5: Collective Action

Environmental health is no longer a niche concern. Consumer attitudes are shifting toward more eco-friendly practices, and businesses rise or fall depending on their commitment to the planet. With sustainability as a purchasing factor, companies cannot afford to ignore or greenwash their environmental impact. 

In addition, municipalities are ramping up sustainability regulations and compliance mandates for corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) commitments. Businesses face financial penalties, bad press, and loss of social license if they do not take proactive ESG measures to ensure resilient operations and positive public perception. 

Food waste concerns are a recent example of collective sustainability. By working together, food waste can be significantly reduced at each stage of the supply chain. At the source, growers can implement improved harvesting techniques to prevent spoilage. At the point of sale, consumers are encouraged to make smart purchases  and use food efficiently through dedicated food waste education campaigns. 

Retailers and wholesalers rely on relationships with food banks when food is no longer salable. At the same time, technology such as apps and websites connect consumers with free or reduced-cost goods nearing expiry dates. Finally, the waste management industry turns unavoidable waste into usable resources with dedicated composting facilities and organic waste collection programs.

The Future of Waste Management

Keter Environmental Services is always a step ahead when providing comprehensive waste management solutions to our clients. As a leading B2B waste and recycling management solution, we promote cost-effective, sustainable practices while meeting the changing demands of consumers and regulations. Book a demo with one of our consultants today!

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