Infographic – Waste Management 2.0

By Katerina Mansour - 01 April 2020

How much waste is produced and how this waste is managed has a massive impact on climate change and should be a central element of any CSR plan. We take a look at the trends and solutions surrounding this topic.

Data shows that countries throughout the world have been producing more waste over the years, largely due to growing population sizes and rapid urbanization. This strong correlation between waste generation and population growth is mainly observed in Western countries but is also an important warning bell for developing countries, which are bound to face tremendous hurdles related to waste management in the future.

Indeed, when looking at the World Bank’s predictions in terms of municipal waste created by region, Sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia & The Pacific are among the regions that are expected to produce the most municipal waste by 2050. However, North America and Europe’s role should not be underestimated. Wealthy countries such as the United States, Canada and members of the EU, only represent 16% of the population, yet produced 34% of the world’s waste as of 2018.

Governments taking steps in the right direction

Awareness has been growing over the years as data becomes more widespread and the effects of climate change become more noticeable. Thankfully, several countries have been making strides: Germany and Austria are among the countries that recycle the most in the world, recycling 67,6% and 57,7% of municipal waste in 2017 respectively. South Korea has also made drastic efforts in terms of food waste, recycling 95% of food waste generated. Indeed, in 2005, the country made dumping food in landfills illegal. Then, in 2013, a compulsory food waste recycling measure was put in place that involves the purchase and use of biodegradable bags to encourage home composting. Technology also plays a role: in Seoul, residents discard their food waste into smart bins that weigh the deposit and then charge a fee accordingly.

Corporate responsibility in waste generation

The World Bank predicts that by 2050, the world will produce 3.4 billion tonnes of waste annually. Corporates in a variety of industries have a role to play in the efforts to reduce the world’s waste generation. Data put together in 2016 by Eurostat illustrated that the construction, mining/quarrying and manufacturing industries were the top 3 contributing industries in the EU in terms of waste generation. Luckily, many startups have entered the market with solutions aiming to help corporates reduce their impact.

Startups empowering corporates to reduce waste

Startups such as Notpla (formerly Skipping Rocks Lab) are providing corporates with a new form of packaging that is algae-based and therefore biodegradable. Reducing the use of plastics as much as possible in the manufacturing process is a trend that will arguably continue for decades to come, among other things due to the highly dangerous effect plastics have on the world’s marine life. Nestlé has in fact chosen to invest CHF 2 billion into the shift from virgin to recycled plastics in order to help bring about change.

Waste monitoring is another key area in which innovation is being noted. Rated startups like Sensoneo help cities and businesses optimise their waste management by tracking waste in real-time to adjust waste collection strategies as needed.

Yet another big trend has been the increase in solutions that aim to turn waste into energy. For example, Susteen Technologies (also rated by Early Metrics) has developed solutions that convert organic waste into sustainable energy such as syngas and bio-oil.

It’s clear corporations have realised they need to do better at waste reduction and management, as shown by new CSR strategies put in place by many. Early Metrics is proud to be working with a number of these large industrial players to help them find and assess startups that could provide them with the right waste management solutions. Ultimately, we aim to foster win-win-win collaborations: for the corporate, for the startup and for the planet.

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