The Future of Recycling

Less Plastic in Landfills, More Plastic Recycling

Plastics take hundreds or even thousands of years to break down, which is an environmental conundrum given the amount of plastics we produce and discard each year. Many cities in the U.S. are starting to ban plastics to some extent, whether it is by minimizing the production of styrofoam or banning further manufacture of plastic bags. This will effectively decrease the amount of plastic going into the ground each year thus making rubbish removal services  cheaper and more efficient.

Plastics are also being produced to be biodegradable now, and that practice will continue to grow in the coming years. In fact, the market for biodegradable plastic resins is expected to increase by 19 percent per year into 2017.

That can be taken a step further with increased developments in the recycling of plastics. Many people already have access to waste collection and recycling facilities which allow them to return their plastic bottles. But new plants could soon be developed which will serve to recycle many more types of plastics, with a vastly increased capacity for the amount able to be recycled each year. These projected facilities could help divert 650,000+ tons of plastics from landfills each, per year.

Recycling Entire Buildings

In 2013, A Swedish student at the Umeá Institute of Design came up with a conceptual design for a robot which recycles buildings made out of concrete and rebar. This extremely innovative idea won designer Omer Haciomeroglu a 2013 International Design Excellence Award from the Industrial Designers Society of America. This design is only in the idea stages now, and would be a huge feat to bring to fruition, but it is revolutionary. It would mean that entire buildings made of concrete could be recycled.  The sheer scale of rubbish clearance and recycling to be had by a development like this is mind blowing. We can be sure to see more conceptual designs like this in the near future. Waste removal is a serious problem and we need to take action to solve it.

Composting as a Mandatory Practice

More and more cities are making composting an obligatory practice for homeowners. This in effect diverts much food waste from landfills. While America as a whole only diverts about 5 percent of its food waste, San Francisco (who made composting mandatory) manages to divert about 80 percent of its food from landfills each year. Paired with initiatives to prevent the waste overall by better distributing and marketing food, the practice of mandatory composting can better help us work toward a zero-waste-to-landfills goal.

Organic Waste Converted to Energy

Anaerobic digestion technology is an innovative and forward thinking practice in which food and other biodegradable waste are turned into sustainable bioenergy. It collects waste from restaurants, supermarkets and food-processing plants and converts the food waste to energy by turning it into things like natural gas, fertilizer, and electricity. The gas is used to power things like vehicles, school buses, and fleet vehicles in San Francisco and the surrounding region.

The “Sacramento BioDigester” can take in about 100 tons of food waste per day, which is almost 40,000 tons per year. If these units existed all over the U.S. and in other countries, the impact of this would be absolutely astounding.

Recycled Cigarettes

38 percent of the litter found on roads is cigarette and tobacco product waste. Along with being a nasty habit, it is also a nasty and problematic source of pollution. Until now, there hasn’t been much we can do about it other than hope people will learn to just discard their butts. But TerraCycle’s Cigarette Waste Brigade recycling program now makes it possible for any person or organization to collect and send tobacco product waste directly to them. They then compost the paper, and the cellulose acetate filters are recycled into industrial plastic products (such as shipping pallets). Vancouver also launched a similar program. We hope to see this trend on the rise in more cities and countries over the coming years. Reusing and recycling waste is the only way to manage waste clearance and disposal effectively without polluting the environment.