2021 waste industry trends shape the future of recycling and reusing

By Guest Author | recycling | March 4, 2021

The waste industry registered great changes last year, and experts expect 2021 to mark a transformative moment because it will focus on trends around diversity, safety, collection technology, local budgets, recycling policies, market development and ESG. 

Why is the waste industry on the rise?

The increase in population triggers an increase in waste products challenging to manage without a proper plan. Countries worldwide used to ship their waste to China, but the country no longer imports discarded paper, waste wool, cotton, plastics or ash, and now everyone has to come up with their own strategy. 

At present, we’re witnessing how traditional disposal methods are failing miserably to handle the increasing need, and waste gets dumped in the oceans and is polluting the environment and harming animals and humans. 

The good news is that governments worldwide are making efforts to deal with some of the country’s trash issues by implementing cutting-edge technology and cooperation between businesses, governments, municipalities, recyclers, manufacturers, packagers and designers. 

To better understand how the waste industry will evolve in 2021, let’s check some of the trends that will shape it in the following months. 

Computer technology can improve multiple waste management operations

The tech industry is constantly evolving, and computerised methods used in the waste and recycling industry can be developed to help and enforce the division of waste. Recycling facilities can use chipped recycle waste, GPS-operated compactors, and robots to sort waste. 

Industry experts are expected to create new technologies to identify unconventional recyclable materials and deal with them on site. Computer technology solutions also include devices and apps that collect data to meet energy and sustainability goals. It’s important to track products throughout their lifetimes to understand the processes they get involved in and develop ways to limit their negative effects. The data extracted from products tracking can be used to prevent waste generation by identifying patterns and stopping them. 

Complex recycling programs

Lately, green waste or discarded food has been a subject governments, and eco-friendly organisations have discussed about. For a long time, we have overlooked this type of waste, but as it triggers extensive damaging effects, waste specialists have turned their attention towards finding solutions to prevent its formation. A way to recycle and reuse green waste is to turn it into biofuels. 

In 2021, we expect the composting infrastructure to expand to more countries due to the adoption of food waste recycling laws. Some areas have laws that require food-wasting facilities like hotels, restaurants, and hospitals to develop food recycling plans. Public and private sectors collaborate to gather the needed finances to develop facilities, especially for organics, so they no longer end up in landfills. Starting with 2015, governments adopted holistic approaches to cut food waste, and in 2021 we will witness further efforts made to ensure that all entities make better use of resources and prevent taking large amounts of food to landfills. 

Countries worldwide have implemented plans that regard the recycling of different materials, but by no means the present plans are efficient enough to counteract the waste the planet produces. For example, in Denmark, municipalities provide the citizens with bins for organic waste, and 9 in 10 people are happy with the system because it allows them to recycle and reuse it. However, even in places where the local governments support the residents to sort their organic waste, the system is far from perfect, and many people still fail to sort it.          

Resin made from plastic in processes that emit less greenhouse gas

As for many other industries, technology is to thank for improvements. One of the biggest advancements in the waste sector is the high-end technology used to manage solid waste. Top of notch devices are used to transform ecological and economical plastic waste into a high-quality resin. Until now, resin was obtained as a result of a process that caused high amounts of greenhouse gas, but the latest processes that rely on modern technology emit less gas than ever. Even if this technology is ahead of the game, the industry still requires improvements to stay on top of it. 

Waste converted to energy

Researchers are ready to explore new ways to convert waste into energy. Circular economy measures will imply exploiting waste resources for generating energy. The industry is about to find new ways to treat food on site to limit the expenses associated with taking the waste to landfills. 

At present, some companies have waste to energy processes that convert organic waste into energy resources.

The growing waste issue has caused governments to support energy generation from waste projects. Governments worldwide promote financial incentives and tax benefits to encourage organisations to recycle and reuse waste. Waste to energy plans include greenhouse gas credits to businesses that dispose of their waste through WTE projects. 

Local authorities are more involved in waste recycling by creating regulations for collecting and processing waste

Following the example of countries like Denmark that created recycling laws and regulations, local authorities worldwide plan to create regulations that facilitate the collection and processing of waste. Government initiatives have the power to create new waste programs that better serve the current needs. Regulations can trigger significant local and national change because residents are required to have an active role in recycling and composting. Food waste is the type of waste that gets the most attention at the moment because the amounts of biowaste that ends up in landfills is higher than ever. 

Final thoughts

By 2050, the planet’s oceans will have more plastic than fish without worldwide waste management measures. At present, 20% of the trash in landfills is wasted food, but if the waste industry adopts some of the above trends, the global waste energy market will grow significantly and allow us to replace non-renewable energy resources with renewable ones while cleaning the environment of waste. Waste management worldwide went out of control lately, but the solutions expected to hit the market in 2021 can successfully get on top of the issue. 

Photo by Dustan Woodhouse on Unsplash