Waste from households and consumers isn’t just a problem for landfill; it’s an issue for the environment at large. Companies and consumers are generating so much waste that it’s hard to know what to do with it, with much of it finding its way into ecosystems and the ocean.
The good news is that clever startups and research institutions are applying new technology to the problem of waste management, helping to make it more sustainable for both people and the planet. Take a look at some of these new technologies that are tackling our epic waste problem.
Transit Sensors For Food
Food waste is a significant issue. Every year, around 40 per cent of the food that we produce goes to waste, either because it’s thrown out by consumers or its spoils on the way to the shop floor. But now the Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology is looking at ways of using sensors to monitor the quality of fruit and vegetables while in transit to ensure that they don’t spoil. The ultimate goal of the project is to provide companies with a cheap early warning system that will detect when food is about to spoil and give them time to make alternative arrangements.
Turning Waste Into Energy
At the moment, when the garbage disposal company opens a trash can enclosure and empties the wheelie bin, the majority of that waste goes to landfill with a small amount being recycled. But many of the materials contained in the trash can create new energy in the form of biogas.
Startups are creating special tools that they call “digesters.” These digesters are systems which use trillions of bacteria to break down household and business waste and turn it into useable biogas. That biogas can then be burned to create energy to drive a turbine to generate electricity.
What’s so good about this solution is that it doesn’t involve digging any new fossil fuels out of the ground and it recycles the energy embodied in the stuff that people throw out.
Recycling Precious Metals
Economic growth could come to a halt if humanity doesn’t find a sustainable way to recycle precious metals – something limited in the Earth’s crust. Precious metals are used for all kinds of advanced technologies, like car battery cells, lasers and mobile phones. Without their unique properties, manufacturers would be forced to create inferior products or put up their prices.
Now there are new technologies, like plasma arc recycling, that help to extract precious metals from a substrate using super-heated plasma. The new technique makes it easier to recover metals that were once thought irretrievable in standard devices.
Disposal Screening Technology
Sorting recyclable from non-recyclable garbage by hand is a time-consuming and challenging process. But with advances in machine learning, it may no longer be necessary. Robot arms equipped with AI cameras could discern different types of waste from one another and quickly place them into separate containers, according to classification. Waste disposal may become more automated, making it cheaper for taxpayers.