We already know that we should ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ but what if there was a way to make sustainability easier? Going digital could, in fact, improve our environmental footrprint.
The recycling industry is in a crisis. Intelligent technology could fix it. Here’s how.
Many of us have access to recycling in our homes and local councils. It might seem that this is a global phenomenom.
However, the reality of it is that millions of people don’t have access to recycling, and this results in tonnes of cardboard, paper and plastics going to waste. The only option for many of these people is going to the recycling centre themselves, or throwing it away.
91% of plastic globally isn’t recycled. This is a problem.
In developing countries, inaccessibility to recycling is especially prevalent; however, it is also a very prominent problem in the United States and other developed countries, especially with China’s ban on foreign waste.
The US has stagnated largely because of this, only recycling 9% of their plastic waste since 2012. This is hugely behind Europe (at 30%) and China (at 25%).
To make recycling accessible to all, we must first streamline the sorting process. This means using automation and intelligent robots to ensure that recycling is effective, efficient and clean. AI can use advanced vision systems to discern between different materials, as well as identify them despite dirt or damage.
With smarter measures, recycling will become more widespread and accessible to all because of the quick and easy process, and therefore more waste will eventually get recycled.
Robots for safety and optimization
While human workers need safety training and require sleep and food, robots inherently do not, meaning that automated machines can work around the clock to sort and clean recycled materials.
This does not mean that human workers will be erased from the industry altogether. Instead, it means that there would be less exploitation and increased safety in the recycling sector. Some job loss will occur; however, it will allow for more jobs in other areas, such as maintenance, engineering and supervision.
It would also mean a safer, more humane working environment for many people, especially those in vulnerable situations.
Transparent and traceable recycling
Blockchain technology will ensure that recycling supply chains are traceable and transparent, and the material is appropriately recycled and not wasted. This will eventually allow for a ‘circular economy’ – a waste economy in which all items are endlessly recycled and repurposed into new items.
This allows for metals such as gold in smartphones to be reused into new technological appliances, as opposed to merely disposed of.
Gold, for example, can be recycled infinitely, which means that disposing of them is inherently wasteful and unsustainable. Gold, silver and platinum are non-ferrous metals, so they do not lose their chemical or physical properties when recycling.
Instead, we should be repurposing these metals endlessly, saving companies both time, energy and money. Recycling, not only in precious metals, can improve company finances for the better.
Through smart technologies, we can make recycling easy, accessible and streamlined.
At Blockhead, our platform STAMP can track anything – from fuel to supply chains to the circular economy. To find out more, click here.