Waste. It’s a problem in the United States and the entire world. Humans are huge consumers and consumption generates a lot of waste. The good news is that there are new technologies to address the problems of waste management, helping to provide a greener future for the world.
Yes, the World Has a Trash Problem
According to the World Bank, 2 billion tons of garbage are generated worldwide every year and that figure continues to grow. In the United States, the most waste-generating nation in the world, an average of about 4.9 pounds of trash are generated per person, per day.
The U.S. buries half of waste in landfills, recycles or composts 32%, and burns the remainder. During the past 30 years, the number of landfills across America has reportedly declined by over 70 percent and many others are approaching their fill capacity. As a result, many states have shifted their problems by taking the costly route of shipping their waste out of state.
The traditional means of dumping and burying waste generates methane gas. Methane gas then pollutes the air and leaches chemicals into the soil thereby polluting groundwater. While combusting waste has grown in use, it has serious environmental consequences.
Although recycling is growing in use, it too has some issues that need to be addressed. For example, many things that could be recycled aren’t recycled and recycling processes have been both limited and inefficient.
Brightmark Energy Offers a Waste and Energy Development Solution
Brightmark Energy, based in San Francisco, California, offers a new solution to recycle waste to fuel. They broke ground on a $260 million plastics-to-fuel plant in Ashely, Indiana in May 2019,. Today the plant is nearly fully operational.
When complete, the plant will be able to convert 100,000 tons of plastics into fuel and commercial grade wax. Plastic materials eligible for conversion include children’s toys, flexible packing materials, plastic film, plastic bottles, and Styrofoam cups.
As a result, the plant will counter some of the 33 million tons of plastic waste that Americans generate every year. Brightmark then hopes to announce expansion plans by 2023.
PureCycle Technologies Offers Innovations in Plastics Recycling
PureCycle Technologies, based in Orlando, Florida, recently developed a patented process for recycling plastic materials. Their process separates materials by color, odor, and contaminants, ultimately creating a new resin. This resin is the basis for plastic products.
Today, businesses and governments only recycle 10 percent of plastic waste. As such, new innovations like these are critical. This fits the sustainability visions of many companies like Milliken and Procter & Gamble. PureCycle’s first plant in Ironton, Ohio will eventually purify and recycle about 119 million pounds of propylene each year.
More New Technologies
Other developments include the use of AI and machine vision-based technology to handle the difficult process of recycle sorting, by AMP Robotics. Additionally, the Arizona-based company Footprint aims to eliminate single-use plastics by manufacturing compostable containers.
Clearly, waste management, including waste disposal and recycling are huge challenges. Therefore, it will take some great technological innovations, like those mentioned here, as well as some consumer behavior changes to effect change that will benefit the environment and mankind.