When China severely curtailed imported waste from the United States and other countries a few years ago, it forced them to review their own waste management processes more carefully.
Ash, cotton, paper, plastic, steelmaking slag, yarn, and wool are the main categories of waste that China will no longer accept. Unfortunately, this has caused worsening waste overflow and pollution problems in the United States.
Several waste management companies in this country have pledged to create and utilize technology that makes collecting, disposing, and recycling trash more efficient. These technologies represent the future of waste management in the United States.
One example is the expectation of tracking each new product through its lifespan. With this information, product and packaging manufacturers can reduce future waste by incorporating lifecycle data into their manufacturing processes.
Stronger Partnerships with End Market Manufacturers and Retailers
Waste Management, a national leader in trash pick-up and recycling, made a renewed commitment to the recycling process during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. The company is now diligent about teaching its employees and customers what the recycling process truly means.
One reason for this renewed commitment is that Waste Management discovered most consumers don’t think about recycling once a company driver hauled their bin away in a truck. Even several Waste Management employees assumed that the sorting and processing of customer recyclables marked the end of the recycling process.
However, the reality is that recycling is not complete until the old product becomes a new product. Completing the entire recycling loop involves stops at each of the following:
- Homes and businesses of residential and commercial customers.
- Curbside collection of recyclables.
- Materials recovery facility to sort through recyclables.
- Materials processing plant to prepare recyclables for delivery to manufacturer.
- Manufacturing company to create new products from recycled materials.
- Retail stores so consumers can purchase newly recycled products.
Waste Management and several other trash and recycling companies have also pledged to form more partnerships with manufacturers and retailers to see the recycling process through from start to finish.
Increased Reliance on Computerized Programs to Improve Waste Processing Efficiency
New technology at sorting facilities has greatly increased efficiency in identifying recyclable materials among waste and sorting it into the proper category. Recent technological developments in this area include trash compactors operated by GPS and robots to sort through all the waste.
Waste management companies can even determine which households recycle regularly by reading a chip underneath the lid. Households that don’t recycle or do so infrequently may receive gentle reminders from the trash and recycling company or even have to pay a higher monthly rate for services. The sensor can also alert the waste management company that the recycle bin is nearing its capacity and requires pick-up soon.
A New Way to Collect Trash and Recyclables
Trash pick-up via a pneumatic tube system would have seem far-fetched even a few years ago. Although only a few waste management companies have implemented this technology so far, more are becoming open to the idea.
With a pneumatic tube system, a waste management employee would install a type of chute inside or outside the home of each customer on the route. People would then drop their trash and recyclables into the tube for direct delivery to a processing center for sorting.
Individuals and companies seem to be getting more creative in their sustainability efforts all the time. That is great news for a struggling planet.