Unearthing the treasures in innovative waste management
By Inyene Ibanga
Waste management is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity today. Humans produce millions of tons of waste, which is, increasingly, becoming a major global problem.
By 2050, global waste is expected to reach four billion metric tons. According to Statista, worldwide municipal solid waste generation is projected to have increased by roughly 70 per cent to 3.4 billion metric tons within the same period.
This upsurge in global waste is attributed to several factors, including population growth, urbanisation, economic progress, as well as the rise in consumer culture or consumer shopping habits.
The annual global cost of necessary solid waste management is predicted to rise from the current $205 billion to $375 billion, with the cost increasing most severely for those cities in low-income countries, according to the World Bank.
With such massive volumes of waste arising and the attendant cost of managing these, the need for reliable waste collection, treatment, and disposal services has become more important.
As waste generation continues to increase massively around the world, it is creating serious health, safety, and environmental consequences.
To reduce the effect of this burden on the environment and climate challenge, communities are turning to smart waste management technologies and solutions.
Every day, new technology is emerging to change the way we do things. These advances in technology are also bringing many new ways of innovating the waste management sector.
Considering that the smart waste management market is expected to be worth $3.14 billion by 2023, technology and innovative solutions are converting “one man’s trash into another’s treasure.”
Smart waste management refers to any system that uses technology to make trash collection and disposal more efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly. It is an important aspect of smart city development.
Technology is innovating the waste management industry in many ways. It is turning waste into energy, creating new ways to recycle precious metals, spurring advances in route efficiency, as well as the evolution of new collection and disposal technologies.
OkwuEco, Waste Bazaar, GIVO, Recyclepoints, Scrapays, Pakam Nigeria, Wecyclers, and Chanja Datti are some of the Nigerian companies tackling waste management using digital technology.
Innovative technologies used in waste management include smart waste bins, waste level sensors, AI recycling/waste sorting robots, garbage truck weighing mechanisms, solar-powered trash compactors, and pneumatic waste pipes.
Others are e-waste kiosks, recycling apps, smart fleets, and modern landfills powered by technologies that ensure environmental safety and sustainability.
Most of these systems are equipped with the Internet of Things (IoT), a monitoring technology that collects and tracks real-time data to help optimise waste collection and disposal.
Smart waste bins use artificial intelligence-based object recognition to automatically sort recyclables into separate compartments. The process reduces human error and helps to lower waste management costs, while also improving employee efficiency.
Waste level sensors installed in bins or dumpsters of any size collect and store data on fill levels and help prevent public containers from overflowing and littering the surrounding environment.
The problem of a dwindling workforce as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is being addressed with the use of AI recycling robots. These robots accurately identify and sort recyclable materials and reduce the need for human workers.
Cities can use the garbage truck weighing technology installed in garbage trucks to accurately predict fill levels and cut down collection trips. Through this mechanism, cities and companies would know how often they need to send their trucks to evacuate trash.
Solar-powered trash compactors are employed to increase bin capacity, collection efficiency and reduce trips to the dump. These machines compress trash as it accumulates, thereby holding up to five times more than traditional trash bins.
Recycling applications/platforms and e-waste kiosks are other innovations that technology has increased their efficiencies, reduced their costs, and created new opportunities for in the waste management industry.
Fascinate Technologies was among the nine Nigerian startups that the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) unveiled at the GITEX 2021 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The startup plans to introduce smart waste bins to solve environmental pollution and prevent the spread of diseases in the communities.
Another startup, Trashpays serves as an online trash trading and recycling market hub, where trash collectors, trash recyclers, and manufacturing industries cohabit in an online market to trade in trash and recycled products.
The need to build technological solutions to transform waste deposits into a profitable resource cannot be over-stressed.
Indeed, an enabling environment for digital innovation to thrive in the waste management sector would strengthen engagement among entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, government authorities to improve the system.
Stakeholders in the extractive, manufacturing, and fast-moving consumer goods industries need to create more waste-to-wealth initiatives to convert landfill waste into limitless resources.
Inyene Ibanga is Managing Editor, TechDigest and writes from Wuye District, Abuja; email: [email protected]