Using digital technology and adapting to outside factors such as increased landfill costs can help commercial operations with sustainable waste removal as part of net-zero targets and financial goals.
Waste management is playing a greater role in sustainability transitions across many industries. In the United Kingdom, the commercial and industrial sectors produce a significant amount of waste, and the construction industry tops both of them, according to waste management company Envirovue.
With industrial waste, as well as hazardous waste, increasing and significantly adding to emissions, figuring out ways to limit those impacts could be key to making sustainable improvements and improving efficiencies of operations. According to the World Economic Forum, the richest countries in the world produce more than 2 billion metric tons of waste a year, and overall waste generation is responsible for 3.3% of total emissions and 20% of methane emissions.
Waste reduction processes like increasing recycling, composting, and segregation, could reduce the waste sector’s emissions by 84%, according to the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. This is where technology is important, Envirovue says, especially by keeping recoverable materials out of landfills.
By adopting a digital waste management system, companies can track their waste, and emissions from waste while reducing their carbon footprint through smart processing and reduction. Other benefits from long-term waste reduction strategies include more efficient use of raw materials and packaging as well as reducing the emissions associated with the collection and treatment of waste, which can also lower costs, Envirovue says.
This can play a significant role in net-zero efforts considering the commercial and industrial sectors in the UK alone produced more than 37 million metric tons of waste in 2018. The UK government says the manufacturing and construction industries on average generate nearly 6.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
The UK Green Building Council says nearly 100 million metric tons of construction materials are wasted each year. Overall, construction is responsible for a quarter of the world’s waste.
That has led to the industry trying to find more sustainable materials, such as a project from Lendlease, Rubicon Technologies, Mycocycle, and Rockwood Sustainable Solutions that is using fungi to breakdown asphalt shingles, most of which would be discarded, into reusable materials. The industrial waste management market could be valued at more than $2 trillion by 2031, according to Transparency Market Research.
Automation in improving waste management is also becoming more common. Cority recently upgraded its EHS platform with a waste management system to help businesses track waste, reduce risk, and create regulatory reports. EverestLabs raised $16.1 million to enhance its artificial intelligence-enabled operating system for recycling, and RoadRunner Recycling acquired Compology to improve automated waste platforms and increase recycling capabilities for businesses.
Envirovue says costs are also rising to even use landfills, increasing 2% in 2022 from 2021. That highlights the need for businesses to drive waste away from landfills and toward sustainable alternatives.
“The best result should allow the maximum amount of waste to be recovered and recycled for its purpose and offer sustainable solutions to reduce the overall amount of waste in the long run,” says Director of Envirovue Daniel Redfern. “Overall, waste reduction should be seen as a key factor for driving economic resilience not only for businesses but for the economy as a whole.”