In recent years, society has become increasingly aware of the pressures facing the environment. While there are many behaviours that affect the environment, from those of huge industries to those of individual consumers, there’s no denying that the huge volumes of waste overcrowding landfill sites and seeping into the planet’s waterways are particularly detrimental.
There are, of course, many ways to reduce the impact of waste on the environment. Many manufacturers are now finding innovative new ways to reduce the volume of single-use and disposable goods in the first place, and individuals are encouraged to do their bit within the home and workplace to minimise their individual waste output. However, living a zero-waste lifestyle is something that the majority of us would really struggle to do. For this reason, we are encouraged to recycle.
For many people, the word ‘recycling’ has typically referred to separating household waste and leaving it outside to be collected – until recently. Today, there are many different recycling initiatives spreading across the world, all with the same mission – to minimise the need for virgin materials and make use of the materials we already have.
At Devon Contract Waste, we’re proud to have played a part in the eco-friendly movement sweeping across the globe – but what’s next? Here we discuss the future of recycling services and what we can expect to see over the next few decades.
The chances are that you’ll have noticed a huge increase in the number of recycled products hitting the shelves. While notepads produced from recycled car tyres and coffee cups produced from recycled cardboard have been on our radar for a long time, there’s no denying that the past decade has seen a huge rise in the recycled goods market.
Some of the most innovative products manufactured using recycled materials include:
From rain jackets produced from plastic bottles to sunglasses manufactured from fishing nets, it’s fair to say that there are some truly stylish garments on the market that have incorporated recycled waste into their design. This is a trend set to continue as fashion outlets try to become more ethical and socially responsible.
The clothes market isn’t the only one making use of the plastic waste clouding our oceans and landfill sites. Many designers are now using plastic recycling to produce lines of footwear, including big brands such as Adidas and Stella McCartney.
From recycled glass used in bricks to the recycling of aggregates, the construction industry has certainly become more environmentally-friendly over the past couple of decades. The focus on sourcing recycling building materials is not surprising, considering that the construction industry is one of the largest contributors to waste in the UK.
While using recycled materials to produce new goods, such as jackets, shoes, coffee cups and more, is an innovation which should certainly be celebrated, it is particularly important for businesses to focus on closed-loop recycling. After all, if recycled material is used to produce single-use items, its disposal is only postponed and not prevented.
To extend the lifespan of recycled goods for as long as possible, companies should ideally focus on closed-loop recycling. This is where items are recycled into their original form, such as old carrier bags being used to form new ones, in order to keep the cycle going for as long as possible.
While the technology needed to activate closed-loop recycling successfully isn’t yet there, this is something that companies are striving towards and hope to achieve in the near future.
It’s fair to say that the majority of us rely on our smartphones on a day-to-day basis. We use them to socialise, take photographs, book meetings, make purchases and pay utility bills, and now we also use them to recycle. There are many different apps designed to minimise the volume of waste being disposed of by connecting individuals and businesses with goods that would otherwise be thrown away.
For instance, apps such as ReGAIN offer consumers discount from high-street retailers for recycling their unwanted clothes instead of simply throwing them away. Other apps have been designed to tackle food waste, such as Too Good To Go, by connecting individuals with restaurants and cafes that have leftover food that is still fit for consumption.
Recycling apps are beneficial for a number of reasons, but perhaps most notably because they make the idea of minimising waste much more accessible, opening it up to a wider market of people. Fortunately, this is another trend that isn’t likely to slow down as our reliance on our smartphones only increases.
As more and more individuals become aware of the climate crisis, and start to put pressure on big businesses and industries to do their bit for the planet, it has become especially important for governments across the world to get involved. Today, a government’s environmental policies are hugely influential in gaining or losing support from the general public.
Currently, the UK government is working towards a target set by the EU, which requires the UK to recycle a minimum of 50% of its household waste by the year 2020. Whether or not the UK will continue working towards this target over the next couple of years is not yet known, although the government has assured the public that the UK will be as committed to reducing and recycling waste as ever.
Energy-from-waste is a process that many recycling companies have utilised over the years. It refers to the process of turning waste into fuel by using electricity or heat to do so and is something that people have adopted across the world.
Energy-from-waste is something that we can expect to continue in the future, however, it’s likely to see some big changes. After all, as many energy-to-waste initiatives rely on combustion, they produce smoke and other pollutants which have their own negative impact on the environment.
With this in mind, many plants have attempted to produce energy without incinerating waste. There are both thermal and non-thermal ways to do so, each designed to reduce the mass of waste to prevent large quantities from ending up in landfill.
While the idea of robots working amongst us is still alien to the majority of people, this is something that many people within the recycling industry can expect to see very soon – if not already. The recycling industry is one that automation is sure to revolutionise as it is one that relies on the careful identification and separation of materials. In fact, according to a study conducted by PwC, jobs in the waste management sector have a 62.6% chance of become automated by 2030.
There are many benefits to using automation in recycling, but one of the most important is the fact that automated plants can be built to separate materials quickly and efficiently, while greatly reducing the risk of contamination. As a result, the process of recycling will become much more effective (with fewer items being directed towards landfill) and safer (with fewer people being exposed to hazardous waste items).
Automation is sure to have a huge impact on the recycling sector, and is something that we’re sure to see significant advancements in over the next couple of decades.
There’s no denying that the recycling and waste management sectors have seen huge developments in recent years, and as more and more people become environmentally aware, these advancements aren’t set to slow down. The recycling industry is leading the change towards a healthier planet, and is a sector that we at Devon Contract Waste are proud to be a part of.
As the leading waste management company in the South West, we specialise in the responsible and safe disposal of commercial waste for businesses in Exeter and beyond. Whether you’re hoping to dispose of confidential waste securely or you’re looking for paper recycling for your business, we at Devon Contract Waste are the company for you.
We’re especially proud of our Zero to Landfill policy which sets us apart from all other recycling centres in the local area. We focus solely on recycling to make sure your commercial waste is disposed of in the most environmentally-friendly way possible, and ensure that our services always comply with ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 standards.
For more information about our range of recycling services, or to discuss our equipment or container hire, get in touch with our team of professionals today.