We (humans) are drowning in waste! Although there are quite a few legislative initiatives around the world as well as social activity and movements, it is difficult to take a turn for a large vessel. The numbers show an increasingly sad situation in waste management.
According to the World Bank report in 2016 worlds largest cities generated 2 billion tonnes of solid waste. If the population growth will meet the forecasts then by the year 2050 the waste levels will rise up to 3.4 billion tons.
According to the report municipalities budget to manage waste comprises 20-50%. The logic goes that sources of these funds come from tax payers and government support and can be mismanaged or used ineffectively. When is the time to not to repair old landfill but invest in creating a new completely different solution instead? When innovative waste solutions are too present to be ignored.
The waste systems, legislation, awareness of the problem are not on par with the problem. The strategic approach (read investment) to change the system goes in following directions.
- Infrastructure – capital investments to build and repair outdated sorting facilities
- Legal – introduction of coherent interaction among municipal and governmental bodies
- Financial – design of taxes and fee structures
- Engagement – behavioral change in citizen participation
- Social inclusion – poor citizens rely on waste collection and are excluded from society
- Environment – sound waste disposal solutions
- Health and Safety – improvement in waste management leads to more safety
- Knowledge creation – in the local environments local solutions.
This is the strategic approach of World bank – working on governmental and municipality levels around the world
Who can solve the problem
Throughout history, civilization either solved their problems or perished. Those who solved the problems did so by acquiring needed knowledge to create new technological solutions and cooperation.
Technology advancements in implementing environmentally sound and sustainable solutions most effectively come from entrepreneurs who innovate. Disruption of waste management and consumption business models are ripe and ready and are attacked by new ideas. The Market has to respond and the best ideas will flourish.
Here are quite a few creative ideas compiled by Ellen Macartur Foundation about rethinking packaging solutions: REUSE
Bottom-up solutions – led by entrepreneurs
- Zero waste and circular economy. Examples: applications that help find the nearest collection systems. New plants that recycle waste into new products. Bulk stores that sell their products without packaging.
- Robotics. As artificial intelligence (AI) progresses robotic pickers can recognize the type of waste and sort it accordingly.
- Waste-to-Energy. Considered to be one of the most important alternative energy sources, solutions that can produce electricity or heat from municipal solid waste.
- Smart Bins. Radio frequency tags and internet of things can, will and are used in waste bins. Fill level, temperature and conditions are monitored in real-time thus the efficiently collecting only full bins.
- Data Analytics. Route Planning and Optimization. Fleet Data. All contribute and are part of improving the efficiency in the collection the waste creating ever smarter cities.
- Biodegradable plastic. Plant-based product that is not hazardous.
A Small country on the shore of Baltic sea – Latvia is planning to approve bottled waste deposit system that implies that only standard glass bottles and limited form PET bottles will be allowed to submit for recycling and receive money for it. However several entrepreneurs and social leaders insist it is not the best solution and argue to include carton tare, shampoo, glass jars, etc, thus improving legislation according to the latest and upcoming technological possibilities. Robotics and Data Analytics come as technology to solve the issue here.
As legislation states 10 000 signatures must be submitted for Parlament to reconsider and improve legislation. As to date 6652 signatures are collected. If legislation will be improved Latvia would be one of the first states to use comprehensive technology and remuneration system for waste management and could be a reference point in case of success.
In case you are in Rome
If you travel budget style or want to check out innovative solutions then the Rome a metro is a place to see. It is possible to pay for metro ticket in Rome with empty PET bottles. The pilot Recycle and Drive (Ricicli + Viaggi) works in 3 out of 73 metro stations in the city and requires smartphone with the application. (MyCicero or Tabnet).
The metro ticket is 1.5 Euros which means it is necessary to collect and hand in 30 empty bottles.
Let us know if in your know any other places with interesting solutions to improve sustainability and leave a comment below.