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With more people on the planet than ever, consumption of food, electronics and other items continues to rise. By 2050, it’s estimated that the amount of raw materials needed to satisfy this demand will be equal to the output of 2.5 planet Earths.
The UK is currently diverting just under 40% of its municipal waste to landfill. This number puts the country behind others in Europe including Denmark, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands. And with the rise of the Zero Waste movement, there is increasing pressure on countries to divert even more from landfill. The approach to waste policy obviously needs to change, and with technology having a greater influence than ever, there is some hope that this will be possible.
The Manufacturing Industry: The role of Technology
Ideally, changes to the amount of waste generated would be implemented right from the manufacturing stage, with a change in direction from disposable short-life products that encourage waste generation to life-lengthening actions like the introduction of software updates and incentives for keeping devices and other products for longer, as well as the easy conversion of products from their initial use to other uses.
The reuse and repair industry has certainly made much headway in changing what is largely a ‘disposable economy’. However, some questions remain with regard to how many times a product can be reused and repaired before it is no longer viable. But the quality of products can be increased through the design and manufacturing processes, thereby lengthening their life.
Technology’s impact on the manufacturing industry has certainly been a positive one; industry can now recover their waste via the process of “urban mining”. The safety of materials recovery, such as the recovery of copper have also been increased by the introduction of technology.
End-of-life plastics too are enjoying more capability for energy recovery thanks to technology, as well as being able to be placed back into recycling via reprocessing.
Technology and Waste Reduction in the Home
CRM software, as well as engagement with citizens via social media on smartphones and tablets, has had a positive impact on the type and amount of products that are being reused and recycled by residents. Waste management collection organisations, such as local authorities and their contractors, that use CRM software have benefited from more collaboration thanks to the opportunities that social engagement has provided.
Through citizens’ communication of their preferences and ideas via social media, waste management and recycling companies have been able to create marking campaigns over multiple channels that are tailored to customer preferences and needs. Social media has also helped companies to improve the quality of the service they provide.
Technology within the Recycling Industry
In using software that was specifically designed for use by waste & recycling collection companies, there have also been many benefits. Not only has technology helped companies reduce carbon emissions through optimised collection routes (using route optimisation software), but also with the processing and storage of the waste they collect. Such technology has also helped companies to achieve more integrated and productive operations producing ‘cleaner’ batches of recyclate for onward processing.
The Future of the Recycling Industry
With the integration of all manner of waste & recycling processing technology poised to continue, the role of waste management companies will increase in importance, whether they serve the commercial, industrial or residential sectors.
When combined with the efforts being made to communicate with individuals via tailored marketing and information campaigns as well as via social media, and individuals being more willing to communicate with local authorities and their contractors, it is expected that the entire industry will increase its efficiency, productivity and quality of service. And that means a healthier environment for all, regardless of their geographical location.