As science brings us more inventions and longer life, it also brings us the rubbish and pollution of a consumer society. In the US, each person throws out 4.6 pounds of trash every day. Dumping this into landfills is the cheapest and easiest solution, but has long-term effects on the environment. The solution involves not just more sustainable materials, but encouraging people to recycle. Here are some of the new technologies supporting these initiatives.
1. RFID chips
Tagging equipment or merchandise with radio-frequency chips has been in use for years, but it’s only recently been applied to common trash. RFID chips on your trash bins, and sensors on garbage trucks, provide waste management companies with not only valuable data on how much trash is produced and where, but what residence it came from. This technology is in use in cities all over the US and may become critical to enforcing recycling statutes.
2. Pay per pound
Technology could minimize trash by forcing people to pay by the pound rather than a flat fee. A weigh scale on the truck, a unique customer identifier, and a wireless link to central software creates a system that enables the collection service to automatically record just how much you’re throwing out and charge you accordingly. There are certainly ways to cheat, but this may provide more incentive for customers to minimize waste.
3. Smart recycling bins
If facilities place recycling bins instead of trash cans, you have the option to recycle trash from whatever you’re carrying. Cameras and eco-friendly posters could further reinforce this behavior. These bins can also be outfitted with sensors to track every bottle and alert collection teams when they’re full. These “smart” bins will also provide data for analysis, and can help to reduce the efforts, and costs, of recycling centers like Ranch Town Recycling Center Inc.
4. Trash to gas
There are emerging systems that transform your trash into combustible gases that can drive electrical turbines or fuel boilers. It involves breaking down hydrocarbon-based products using superheated steam to produce “syngas”, a hydrogen-rich mix of gases which can also be used to produce compounds like ethanol.
5. Recycling plastic
Plastic was once considered among the worst environmental offenders. Recycling it involved melting, caustics such as lye, and running water to form it into reusable pellets. A Mexican company called Ak Inovex has perfected a method that utilizes specially designed chambers that require no water or excess heat, for safer and cheaper recycling.
Far too many people ignore recycling, despite the fact that it protects our environment, and recycled products cost less. But as technologies and awareness improve, recycling may soon be the norm rather than the exception.