Report shares key areas of development in waste recycling
Sustainability experts present key findings
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — In a year dominated by COVID-19, which has generated high amounts of discarded single-use materials and disrupted material values, health and safety in recycling processing, Frost & Sullivan’s Sustainability team finds refocusing stakeholder efforts to improve market competitiveness is central to its future growth success.
The US EPA’s National Recycling Strategy draft, released in October, outlines objectives focused on reducing contamination in the recycling stream, increasing processing efficiency and improving markets.
“Global markets were already responding to bans on international destinations of waste and recycling materials, and the ongoing disruptions within 2020 require even further adjustments to balance the market,” explained Seth Cutler, principal consultant for Sustainability at Frost & Sullivan, in a prepared statement.
Cutler added: “A combination of unsustainable practices, increasing regulation and public demand for change, and industry disruptions from international trade reductions and COVID-19 have come together to demand fundamental change in how waste and recycling is managed globally. Moving forward, government entities, waste and recycling management organizations, and the greater public will increasingly demand more sustainable practices.”
The three areas of development in waste recycling that show particular promise include:
1. Waste to methanol: Enerkem, based in Canada, produces ethanol, biomethanol, and renewable chemicals from non-recyclable and non-compostable waste. It is partnering with the Port of Rotterdam, AkzoNobel and Air Liquide to develop a facility capable of converting 350,000 tons of waste, including plastic, into 270 million liters of methanol a year.
2. Artificial Intelligence, robotics, and drones: Sensors attached to garbage bins and dumpsters measure waste levels and send data to schedule timely collection. Sensors can read, collect, and transmit data on volume and content type to optimize collection and disposal by leveraging machine-learning capabilities. Drones add aerial monitoring to gauge the level of gases, especially poisonous ones, which escape landfills to ensure site operators are alerted and mitigation efforts are undertaken.
3. Landfill diversion, zero landfill targets, and waste to energy (W2E): W2E is classified as a renewable energy source. It is leveraged worldwide to convert waste materials into energy, which diverts the volumes away from landfills. China is a global leader in W2E and generated roughly 6.8 GW of energy from waste by the end of 2017.