2023 Waste Trends
What’s coming next for waste in 2023? The following trends will give you insights into what’s to come for the waste industry and your business’s waste management practices.
#1 Developing Smart Cities and IoT Waste Projects
IoT (Internet of Things) plays an essential role in the smart cities of the future. Managing and tracking various processes will solve many significant issues. Smart City R&D is well underway. One trend we’ll see much more of is the application of waste monitoring systems for more intelligent waste collection and accuracy in timing. Smart City infrastructure will begin development after critical research determines the best processes for solid waste management systems. IoT data gathered from intelligent monitoring will be used to make better decisions, track waste more efficiently, and manage assets that help reduce waste. These Smart City advancements will spill over to commercial waste solutions, whereby businesses can begin an IoT approach to property and waste management.
#2 Advancements in Smart Hazardous Waste Management
With 400M tons of toxic waste produced yearly, robotics are beginning to advance handling and sorting tactics that minimize environmental pollution and human exposure to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) list of toxins. We will start to see more research and exploration of robotic equipment that detects batteries or battery-containing items and other toxins that often get swept undetected into landfills. Artificial intelligence will leverage deep learning vs. machine learning to help eliminate manual interaction with potentially toxic items.
#3 Circular Economy Expansion Across Many Industries
Circular Economy and zero waste topics were a part of COP27 for the first time in 2021 and grew in importance in 2022. COP27 is the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Circular Economy Movement will hit more industries and increase interest in 2023. Many industries are awakening to what a circular economy means and its potential. Last year, the renewable energy sector was hit with the burning question of how to handle looming waste issues. Many more industries will also face this opportunity. According to the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation, recycling, reusing, and remanufacturing could unlock $1 trillion in wasted resources by 2025. More industries are being faced with the future of their waste and thinking about how to be more circular.
Corporate zero-waste goals and regulations have created an opportunity to make money from waste and opened the door to consider more of these circular models. Surges in addressing supply chain corrections by various industries will be seen, for example, mixed materials that cause recycling challenges. Companies will increasingly ask manufacturers for better material options that improve the recyclability of items at the end of their life.
#4 Canada bans the sale of single-use plastic, more to come?
In just a few years, we’ve gone from about four countries with plastic legislation to about 20. The government of Canada has established a timeline to phase out the production and sale of single-use plastic and styrofoam in the country by the year 2025. Canada is the first North American country to ban the import and sale of single-use plastic entirely, and more governments worldwide are in the process of enacting similar legislation. What this means for U.S. manufacturers is a reconsideration of packaging materials and mixed material items that are hard to recycle. Toward reuse, recyclable metals, and glass containers, we’ll see a repivot to meet the demands of these changing markets that have lost the taste for plastic and the responsibility of managing plastic waste and recycling.
#5 Chemical Recycling of Plastic is Tested
We need to process more plastics for recycling, but that’s not possible with mechanical recycling as it requires high quantities of virgin materials. So, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) has been advocating for more chemical recycling plants for plastic which is being adopted in some states that want to attract business and have updated their laws to declare this process “manufacturing” rather than “recycling.”
Chemical recycling differs from traditional mechanical recycling, where plastic is broken into small pellets. Chemical recycling includes a variety of processes (heat, chemical reactions, or both) that convert plastic to fuel or “depolymerization,” whereby plastic is turned into chemical components or new plastics.
States that want to attract more manufacturing plants have offered more regulatory stability for investing in chemical recycling plants. However, the companies aiming toward these investments want confirmation that laws won’t become stricter or change their definition of “advanced recycling” as the technical battle on plastic recycling will play out politically and environmentally in the coming years.
#6 New Waste Grants
New grant programs will infuse momentum for solving specific waste issues in 2023. Grant opportunities are promoted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Grant initiatives will bring more education to businesses and individuals in communities.
These grant programs will generate momentum for composting innovations, waste reduction, Farm to School initiatives, recycling, and waste educational programs. Businesses will want to know these trends and incorporate relevant strategies into their waste management plans.
#7 EPR – Extended Producer Responsibility
Many EPR laws took effect in 2021, and more are taking shape for 2023 passage. The Product Stewardship Institute tracks EPRs by state and works to help implement these laws. As we see more success from these initiatives, like the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) in California, where the recycling rate jumped from 20.9% in 2020 to 27.9% in 2021, program goals are advancing optimistic outlooks like the 31% recycling rate expectation for 2023.
Producer momentum picks up improving materials that are challenging to recycle, which has resulted in the adoption of legislation such as:
Responsible Battery Recycling Act
Plastic Pollution Prevention and Packaging Producer Responsibility Act
Each state has its own EPR policies. California leads the nation in EPR programs, and New York is also picking up the pace with its carpet EPR bill
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