With an increase in population comes an increase in waste products that must be managed. The United States and other countries used to ship tons of waste to China every year. But China no longer imports discarded plastics, yarn, cotton, ash, waste wool, slag from steelmaking, or paper.
Traditional disposal methods fail miserably to adequately and properly handle the increasing load. Waste dumped into our oceans is polluting the planet and harming marine, animal, and human life.
The good news is that in 2021 the United States will continue to make headway in efforts to crush some of the country’s mounting trash problems. This will be accomplished through the implementation of cutting-edge technology and through an unprecedented level of cooperation and coordination between recyclers, designers, packagers, manufacturers, businesses, municipalities, governments, and others.
#1 Computer technology will be used in various ways to aid in waste management.
Computerized methods will continue to be created to aid with, and enforce, the division of waste from recycled materials. This includes using robots at recycling facilities to sort the waste, GPS-operated compactors, chipped recycle bins that record which households are recycling whenever the hauler tips the bins, and other methods.
Researchers will develop new technologies to locate unconventional recyclables such as wasted food onsite.
Waste and recycling solutions will involve the collection of data to meet sustainability and energy goals. Products will be tracked throughout their lifetimes. Business models will be created based on product lifecycle data so as to prevent the generation of waste.
#2 Composting initiatives will take place along with more recycling programs.
Green waste is another term for discarded food and other forms of biowaste. It is an overlooked type of waste that makes up billions of tons of material. Alliance Bio-Products recycles green waste using a cellulose-to-sugar (CTS) process to turn green waste into biofuels.
In 2021, compost infrastructure will expand in many areas, especially in areas that have food waste recycling laws. California already created a law that requires food-wasting businesses such as restaurants, hospitals, and hotels to recycle wasted food.
Private and public sector partnerships will join forces so that the necessary finances will be available to create facilities that will divert organics away from landfills.
In late 2015, the USDA and the EPA used a holistic approach to make the first attempt to cut the nation’s food waste in half. In 2021, continued efforts in concert from every entity will make better use of resources and prevent huge amounts of wasted food from ending up in landfills.
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. Currently, organics such as paper make up 66 percent of the municipal solid waste stream, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. Many states push composting programs, as many of the states look at higher waste diversion rates. Promoting organics recycling isn’t always an easy task, even where many composting facilities exist.
#3 We will see plastic waste made into high-quality resin that will replace the current greenhouse gas-emitting prime resin that is used in the plastic industry.
This is currently one of the biggest advancements in high-end technology that is happening in the management of solid waste. Ecological and economical efficient plastic waste is turned into high-quality resin. The process emits less greenhouse gas than is emitted when making prime resin. Though currently ahead of the game, this is one area that the industry will need to continue to stay on top of.
#4 Researchers will look at ways that waste can be converted to energy (WTE).
These include circular economy measures, on-demand service, and anaerobic digesters. Circular economy measures include purchasing wasted food’s “energy.” Technologies will soon be able to treat food waste onsite.
Char Technologies has a waste to energy process that turns anaerobic digestate into activated carbon. The company then sells the activated carbon to renewable natural gas companies. They then buy the spent activated carbon from those natural gas companies and sell it as a soil amendment.
#5 The recycle industry will continue to put pressure on WTE projects.
In 2015, the United States had about 71 WTE plants that generated electricity. Like the United States, developed nations such as Germany, Japan and The Netherlands have seen a growth of the recycling industry that is expected to continue to pressure WTE projects in 2021 and beyond. Developing economies are not aware of the benefits of WTE, and that is expected to inhibit growth of the recycling industry.
#6 Governments will continue to promote waste to energy (WTE) efforts.
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. Non-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.
#7 Municipalities and the government will be more involved in waste recycling, creating regulations for collecting and processing waste.
Better collection and processing of waste will be possible once cities provide the needed regulations. Government regulations will drive new waste programs. They will create significant change locally and nationally, partly because consumers will get involved in recycling and composting. Food waste is the kind of waste that is currently getting much attention.
#8 Cooperation and communication between various entities will be key to the success of future waste management solutions.
Private collectors, municipalities and cities may slow down waste collection if there is no place to put pre-sorted plastic waste. Waste collectors and processors will begin to have long-term supply agreements to make progress. Communities are considering the erection of regional facilities. This would provide economies of scale and better manage risk. Communities are also discussing ways to divert waste away from landfills. Cities will talk to each other to standardize waste recycling across the state.
#9 Packaging will continue to change into recyclable forms.
Disposable items end up in the trash bin. Trends in the solid waste industry are causing major changes in packaging. This includes smaller cardboard boxes, lighter-weighted bottles, flexible plastic packaging, and other kinds of more recyclable versions of common everyday throw-away items. This will create more ways to divide waste.
#10 Waste management solutions will include thermal ones (incineration, pyrolysis, and gasification) in addition to biological ones among WTE options.
In 2015, thermal technology accounted for the vast majority of the global WTE market. That is because it is easy to do. Thermal technology is a major contributor to the growth of WTE technology. Incineration is a type of thermal technology. It is popular in WTE plants, and it is expected to hold a large share of the thermal technologies used in the future.
Biological technologies, used for anaerobic decomposition, will continue to gain market share.
Companies all over the world use WTE techniques that reduce their waste. Decomposing waste in landfills produces methane gas emissions. Increasing landfill prices will increase the growth.
Increased interest in sustainable WTE options has stirred interest in municipal solid waste (MSW) pyrolysis and gasification. Along with many other findings, a recent comparison of gasification, gasification-melting, pyrolysis, and incineration confirmed that gasification contributed to syngas cleaning.
10 Must-Know Statistics
- Without changes to waste management, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish by 2050.
- By 2016, China imported 7.6 tons of plastic waste yearly, which accounted for 56 percent of the world’s imports.
- Currently, more than 20 percent of the trash in landfills is wasted food. Food was the largest component of city landfills by 2017.
- By 2017, the percentage of waste that was food waste was 40 percent. Today, households create 43 percent of the food that is wasted, while businesses waste 39 percent, farmers waste 16 percent, and manufacturers waste two percent.
- The global waste to energy (WTE) market size is expected to grow significantly, with renewable resources replacing coal so as to reduce carbon content. In 2015, the WTE market was already at $25 billion.
- The United States spends about $218 billion every year to bring food from farm to fork that goes uneaten.
- Some sea turtles that live in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch have a diet that includes as much as 74 percent plastic.
- The likeliness of coral contracting a disease increases from four percent to 89 percent after coming into contact with plastic. Plastic damages their skin, too. Twenty-five percent of marine life lives in coral reefs.
- Of the five major plastic patches in the world’s oceans, the one between California and Hawaii is the size of Texas.
- #A garbage truck dumps a load of plastic into the ocean every minute, and much of the fish that humans consume has ingested plastic microfibers.
Waste management in the United States went out of control due to various factors. The sudden inability to ship much of our trash to China caused our waste and recycling companies to scramble for highly effective waste management solutions.
Solutions in 2021 will continue to be created and implemented, with computer technology taking a much larger role. Recycling, including various forms of waste-to-energy efforts, will also take a much greater role in waste management. New laws along with massive cooperation and coordination between governments, businesses, and individuals will also be required to successfully get on top of the situation.