Technological development happens to be taking place against environmental concerns and climate crises. This has led some to believe that technology is in some way responsible for the predicament we face when often the direct opposite is true. Technologies are helping us manage waste in novel and exciting ways, vastly reducing the proportion of waste heading to landfill, and reducing the overall amount of waste produced across the world, proportional to the number of humans. Here’s how technology is helping in the fight to reduce waste.
You will likely think of your domestic recycling duties when you think of recycling. When large business managers think about it, they’ll think about their baling machines, which crush huge amounts of recyclable material together into cubes tied with galvanized steel baling wire. This technology is already exciting, large-scale, and designed to process our waste easily.
The most impressive technology kicks in when commercial and domestic waste goes to a recycling facility. The baling wire is pinged off, and the recyclable materials are fed into a complex sorting system, which separates different materials from one another before sending them to their respective processing plants – be that pulping for cardboard or melting for plastics. It is a truly awe-inspiring process.
There are two key benefits to the 3D printer that we only realize today as a society. The first is that 3D printers can be used to produce spare parts for virtually any machine. That means far less time and energy, let alone packaging spent getting spares shipped worldwide. It is the second benefit that is most exciting, though: the ability to manufacture on a grand scale with virtually no waste whatsoever.
For instance, space shuttle engines are now being 3D-printed to make them all in one go rather than in a set of expensive and wasteful processes. Homes are being printed across the world and may one day be printed on Mars. These manufacturing techniques mean that what was once a hugely wasteful process can now be achieved with very little waste.
Finally, it is difficult to talk about waste management and reduction without using big data. In our digitized world, we can do incredible things with data, including tracking the waste produced by different components on a production line. Big data exposes where we can all do better and where some people are letting the rest of us down with their emissions and waste.
Without big data and the impressive data processing computers that help to shape it, we would be all at sea in the climate crisis. Thanks to this technology, we can appreciate the scale of the challenge facing us. In the short term, we can use it to set waste reduction targets, investigate wasteful practices, and find solutions to some of the day’s most pressing issues.
These three examples show that technology can be a huge asset in the fight against waste, and are fairly easy to implement.