Emerging Trends in Recycling and Waste Management

Waste management is an inelegant subject to discuss, but a crucial one when thinking about national infrastructure. With a growing population, and a finite volume of resources, cities across the US begin to buckle.

Waste collection and disposal is a small but essential part of a larger societal puzzle, and a vital discussion when sustainability measures are more important than ever before. But change is afoot, as the following emergent trends in recycling and waste management effectively illustrate.

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Zero Waste Programs

Zero waste programs are the bread and butter of contemporary waste management solutions, being agitated for by sustainability activists and local communities and receiving widespread corporate support. Big businesses are increasingly on-board to re-evaluate their business’ waste practices – and to seek ways to bring excess waste down to zero.

More importantly, US cities are getting on board, with municipal waste programs that promote recycling and re-use techniques to citizens and businesses alike.

Technological Advancements

1. Tech-Enabled Waste Receptacles

There are many ways in which technological is having a positive impact on waste management, but some smaller developments are set to have a significant effect on urban waste collections and cleanliness. One specific scheme has seen compactors installed in larger city waste containers, allowing a much larger amount of waste to be stored.

Sensors are used in tandem with new compactor technology to alert waste removal services when an area is ready for collection. This cuts down on fuel costs and logistical issues, through cutting down the number of waste trucks and visits needs to clear an area.

smart waste management

AI-based waste management systems can help in route optimization and waste disposal

2. Domestic 3D Printing

Developments beyond the world of waste management could provide their own unique solutions to domestic waste management, as evidenced by the possibilities created by the 3D printer. 3D printers have become a commercial success at rapid speed, enabling consumers to ‘print’ their own designs and products out of a plastic compound. With the help of firewire cables and basic CAD software, product design has been effectively democratized.

But more innovation is on the way, as the prospect of directly recycling plastics into new products becomes a reality. Waste plastics could be ground up in the home and used to feed 3D printers, in order to create new items and effectively eliminate plastic landfill waste from that household.

Harvesting Energy

Energy harvesting from organic sources is nothing new; water treatment facilities frequently harvest methane from solid waste extracted from sewage supply, for re-sale to the energy industry. But the methods used to harvest energy from organic processes are only getting more efficient.

biogas-enrichment

The result is a concerted effort to create renewable energy from organic waste sites, through the creation of bioenergy-producing waste disposal locations that receive biodegradable waste to transform into energy.

E-Waste

But, even with real leaps forward in sustainable waste measures and new technological implementations, there are new challenges on the horizon when it comes to waste management. The key challenge relates to the safe disposal of ‘e-waste’, a.k.a. disposed items of electronics – of which there is a steady-growing volume.

Electronic waste items contain dangerous materials, from toxic rare-earth minerals to corrosive substances that toxify the local environment. Recycling efforts are ongoing, but there is no easy way out for recycling circuitry. This illustrates the ongoing need for urgency in the fight against unsustainable waste.

About Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the CEO of BioEnergy Consult, and an international consultant, advisor and trainer with expertise in waste management, biomass energy, waste-to-energy, environment protection and resource conservation. His geographical areas of focus include Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Salman has successfully accomplished a wide range of projects in the areas of biogas technology, biomass energy, waste-to-energy, recycling and waste management. Salman has participated in numerous national and international conferences all over the world. He is a prolific environmental journalist, and has authored more than 300 articles in reputed journals, magazines and websites. In addition, he is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management and environmental sustainability through his blogs and portals. Salman can be reached at salman@bioenergyconsult.com or salman@cleantechloops.com.
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