The future is here! So many industries are being revolutionised, from Uber taking on taxis to AirBnB moving in on hotels, we’re seeing brand new ways of doing things explode across society. The rise of renewables is upending perhaps the world’s largest and most complex industry, energy production, and it’s doing it at an unprecedented rate. As per usual though, we are particularly interested in one industry.
Energy might be the biggest but waste is quite possibly one of the oldest human industries, right up there with agriculture. Effective waste management is fundamental to any society. Civilisations that didn’t do it adequately or efficiently were very unlikely to survive long - at least without contracting some pretty nasty diseases. Unlike certain industries as well (looking at you newspapers) it’s still going to be there in the future. As we’ve stated previously, no one’s about to start eating banana peels any time soon.
So what does the future of waste management look like? It’s pretty exciting but first let’s check out what it looks like now and why it’s so important.
Well despite a few upgrades over the centuries, waste management is basically identical to when it started. Waste is produced, collected, transported, either to a sorting or value recovery facility and then transported again, either to a landfill or a recycling plant. This centralised approach (remember that word) has always been the approach to waste management, whether the dumping ground is a sophisticated, multi-million dollar landfill or a nearby river.
For the purposes of waste management, it’s been enough. There are countless reasons we can’t just leave waste hanging around where we produce it; not only is it unsightly, it attracts pests, produces odours and becomes a hotbed for disease vectors. The current approach though is also creating negative impacts on the environment, as we’ve discussed here. It’s also highly capital intensive, making it difficult to implement in the developing countries and regional areas that need it most.
So how is the future of waste management going to fix these problems? Most people are saying that optimised collection routes, compostable packaging and pay-by-weight are the biggest front-runners but they’re not thinking far enough.
Decentralised waste management is the future. As opposed to our current model, processing facilities are much, much smaller and distributed out across the waste production area. Instead of just putting your waste in a collection bin at the end of your driveway, you take it to the end of your street, where it’s immediately recycled and processed into a valuable product.
Plastics are going to be pretty hard to fit into this model, however there are some emerging small-scale plastics processing technologies currently being developed. For organic waste however, which makes up 60-70% of the municipal waste stream, you already know what we’re going to say.
Of course we’ll always need centralised waste management for commercial, industrial and construction waste but for everything produced at home, this is the future and it’s coming a lot sooner than you think. Small-scale composting operations can easily be deployed but in order to create an interconnected, high-functioning network, you need some pretty smart technology, which is exactly what we’re developing.
Our device can not only track and optimise organic waste decomposition, it is fully online, allowing a decentralised processing network to be established and expand, pioneering the future of waste management.