3 Waste Management Trends For 2022
What’s does 2022 have in store in the world of waste management? The pressure is on to increase diversion from landfill and improve recycling quality. Read on to learn about the latest trends and how these might impact your business.
The EPA has set a National Recycling Goal of 50% recycling by 2030. With nationwide recycling levels having stalled in the low 30 percent range for the past 20 years, it’s going to require a significant leap in capacity and capability to reach this goal. Businesses will be expected to do their part.
There are three objectives to the National Recycling Strategy:
- Reduce contamination in recycling. This is reducing the percentage of wrong materials in the recycling stream, helping to ensure that clean recyclable materials such as paper and glass can be processed and made into new products.
- Make recycling processing systems more efficient. This is about improving the processing system by investing in new equipment upgrades, and making recycling accessible for more Americans.
- Strengthen economic markets for recycled materials. This calls for a need to educate the public about the importance of buying recycled and to increase demand through policies and incentives that focus on materials with less mature markets.
Growth in Infrastructure and Investment for Organics Recycling
Currently, more than 20 percent of the trash in landfills is wasted food, and businesses are responsible for creating almost 40% of this food waste.
Tied in with the EPA’s diversion goal, 2022 looks to be a year for organics infrastructure to expand, particularly in areas that have already passed food waste recycling legislation.
The $1 trillion infrastructure bill that passed in early August will create significant funding opportunities to support this expansion, so it would be wise to begin migrating toward this goal for your business.
Composting has been implemented across the nation, but it has by no means reached its full potential, especially when it comes to its diversion potential. According to the EPA, organics such as paper, make up 66 percent of the municipal solid waste stream.
Expanding Solutions to the Plastics Problem
Glass can be recycled multiple times, with a glass bottle capable of being recycled back into another glass bottle again – with no notable deterioration in quality during this process.
This isn’t the case with most current plastics recycling technologies; when plastics are recycled there is generally a contamination of different polymers. This results in it being very challenging for a plastic bottle to be 100% recycled into a plastic bottle again. Instead, most plastic that gets recycled gets made into lower quality items like guttering, outside furniture, or clothing fibers. This is pretty much the end of the line for the material, and these items generally can’t be recycled again.
90% of the plastic used in the U.S. either goes to landfill or escapes into the environment where it ends up contaminating water sources and ultimately goes out to sea. That’s why it’s predicted that without significant changes to global waste management practices, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish by 2050.
This issue has gained significant attention over the last few years, and 2022 will be an important year for plastics recycling.
Some of the world’s largest consumer product companies including Coca-Cola, Unilever, and PepsiCo have set ambitious targets for replacing virgin resins with recycled ones, with many aiming to achieve 25% recycled content by 2025.
To help hit these targets, chemical companies are promoting chemical recycling—processes such as depolymerization and pyrolysis that break down plastics into feedstock that can be converted into new plastics. But chemical recycling is still in its relative infancy, with the first large-scale plants only now starting to come on line.
For the next few years at least, the growth in plastics recycling will mostly be in conventional mechanical recycling, but with new technologies to improve sorting standards and reduce contamination.
One such sorting technology utilizes machine learning and works on the same principles as sensors in autonomous vehicles that scan the road. “These approaches are fundamentally using a form of pattern recognition that is based on training in an artificial neural network,” says Rob Writz from AMP Technology, AMP’s director of commercial partnerships.
Companies realize they must invest significantly to achieve recycling goals. Nestlé, for example, has allocated $1.6 billion to pay premiums for recycled material over virgin plastics. Nestlé aims to motivate recyclers and waste management companies to expand their operations.
New Waste Management Technologies Will Come to the Forefront
Various Waste to Energy (WtE) treatment methodologies have been developed over the last few years. While these have mostly only been small in volume and high in processing cost, it is almost certain that volumes will rapidly increase and with that, prices will start to fall.
The mounting waste problem has caused governments to push for energy generation from waste. Governments will promote WtE through tax benefits and financial incentives. This will include greenhouse gas (GHG) credits to companies who dispose of waste by WtE. Renewable resources will be used in the future due to growing concerns for the environment. Negative pressure will come from an upcoming landfill tax on waste in North America.
You can read more about WtE technologies here.
NWA Keeps Your Business Ahead of New Waste Management Trends and Changing Waste Regulations
NWA’s experts are constantly analyzing the market to find the most environmentally and financially advantageous treatment methodologies for your waste.
National Waste Associates has the expertise to help your business develop programs and stay up-to-date with waste and recycling trends and regulations. With our in-depth knowledge of sustainable waste management and recycling law compliance, we can provide customized waste and recycling solutions for all your projects.
NWA’s waste management professionals help businesses across a wide range of industries to save resources and ease the stress associated with new changes. Whether it’s 50 locations or 2,000, we optimize every location to save you money and improve your operational efficiency.
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