The Future of Waste

16 December 2019 by CSG

As we enter 2020, we are beginning to look ahead into the next decade to determine the future of waste management. Like any industry, waste management is ever-changing and CSG is constantly looking at innovations and the latest trends to enable us to remain at the forefront of waste management.

We’ll be looking to drive positive change in the waste management industry throughout the 2020s. With CSG at the forefront, we believe the following will be the biggest and most important changes to happen over the next 10 years:

No more “make-use-dispose”

For some time now, society has been built on a linear waste model – where the product lifecycle starts at production, is followed by usage, to finally end at disposal. Most waste experts agree that this method is outdated and unsustainable, and society needs to switch to a circular model.

This would require a total rethink of our economic system, which is much more complex than one may think. To switch to a circular economy waste needs to be viewed as a valuable commodity – rather than wasted materials. Meaning, rather than burying or burning waste, it will be processed and turned into a valuable resource that is returned to manufacturers to create new products.

Today, waste disposal is often seen as an afterthought, but to fully incorporate a circular economy it needs to be thought of in the very first stage of the product lifecycle; design and manufacturing. That way the goods of today, can be seen as the raw materials of tomorrow.

CSG offers a waste mapping service that reverses the traditional model by looking at waste as a valuable material and advising our customers on how on-site waste management techniques can make sure the benefit of this resource is maximised, leading all the way back to the customer’s procurement philosophy.

Waste to energy

Much of the waste we are unable to reuse or recycle is currently sent to landfill, but we could be missing out on a more sustainable alternative. The Nordic countries are often praised for being at the forefront of waste-to-energy (WTE), with Sweden incinerating close to half of its unrecycled household waste, providing heat to approximately 1.2 million households.

As our reliance on oil, coal and gas reduces, innovative WTE-technology provides a feasible and reliable substitute for the consumption of raw materials. It is evident that this is going to become a growing energy generation route of the future.

Waste to energy capacity is currently very limited in the UK and we are reliant on the available incineration capacity in Europe. CSG Recovery has established routes into WTE outlets in Europe for hazardous waste, but to take full advantage we need a future where the UK is self-sufficient in this regard.

Waste technology

It is not a big surprise that technology is rapidly taking a centre stage in the waste industry; as in most other industries.
Here are some examples of how technology can help make the waste industry more precise and efficient;

  • Dividing waste from recyclable materials, using artificial intelligence. The automated waste segregation identifies different type of waste and quickly separates them from each other for an efficient and reliable waste management processes.
  • Develop new methods to turn unrecyclable waste into a valuable resource, for example making biofuel out of cooking oil through enzyme-based solutions or using anaerobic digestions to break down biodegradable waste into biofuel or compost.

At CSG, we pride ourselves on our ability to develop unique and innovative waste treatment solutions; our skilled chemists and technicians work together to develop new technology which answers difficult waste treatment problems. In doing so we ensure that waste taken into our facilities is handled in accordance with the waste hierarchy, ensuring that our environmental impact and that of our clients, who trust us to handle their waste, is as minimal as possible.

Changing perceptions

As mentioned above, to change to a circular economy, waste needs to be thought about at the beginning of a product lifecycle rather than at the end. This means that companies need to completely rethink the way they do business, constantly evaluating where waste is created in a product lifecycle and how they can reduce the amount. While it is easy to think that waste created by businesses is a “product no longer in use”, that statement is only partly true. Waste is created at several stages of the product lifecycle including the creation of prototypes, manufacturing, shipping, and packaging, a lot of which goes unnoticed to outsiders but is essential to facilitate a circular economy.

Arguably, you cannot adopt a circular economy without changing the perceptions of people either. David Attenborough recently urged people to live the way they wanted as long as they “just don’t waste”. With an ever-increasing world population, it is safe to assume that the amount of waste will follow a similar path – UNLESS we change our consumption pattern.
Here are some scary figures that shows why we need to RETHINK:

  • Around 7 million tonnes of food are thrown away each year, out of which 70% was estimated to still be edible.
  • 350,000 tonnes of clothing items are sent to landfill each year.
  • The UK is the fifth-largest producer of e-waste, amounting to a whopping 1,632 metric tonnes of e-waste in 2016. An estimated 90% of all e-waste produced worldwide goes to landfill, is in incinerated, illegally traded or otherwise treated in a sub-standard way.

Final words…

CSG is committed to ensuring the management of waste today and into the future is sustainable, innovative and reactive to the future changes we expect to see.

Do you agree with our predictions? Let us know how you think the waste management industry will evolve in the next decade!