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What's Next in the World of Recycling? 3 Trends to Watch Out For in the Near Future

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 | Comments (0)

(This article is the first part of a 3-article series that looks at the current and future state of recycling and waste management in Australia and the rest of the world.) 

2017 was a watershed year for recycling in Australia. The biggest development would have to be the increase in efforts to ban plastic bags. This year, we saw retail giants Woolworths and Coles implement their own independent ban against single-use plastics. This was followed by Queensland and Western Australia announcing their own bans, which will take effect in 2018. 

But what's next in the world of recycling? What new developments, innovations, and even problems will the reduce, reuse, and recycle movement encounter? We've put together a few trends and expectations we expect to hear more of in the months and years to follow.

The Rise of "Biodegradable Plastic" and "Bioplastic"

Recent developments have seen the introduction of different materials to make plastic a better material.

"Biodegradable plastic" may sound like an oxymoron, but it's really just the same petrol-based plastic with some additives to speed up the degradation process. Technically, it's no better for the environment than regular plastic as it still releases toxic chemicals upon breaking down.

"Bioplastic" on the other hand, is where the exciting stuff is happening. At present, bioplastics are made from plant resins derived from corn and sugarcane among others.

The problem here is that there isn't enough land space to grow more bioplastic feedstocks in a more sustainable manner (e.g. without causing deforestation or consuming too much water). But the rise of vertical farming could open new opportunities for the sustainable growth of bioplastic raw materials. In addition, research into plant-based resins aside from starch could lead to better bioplastic alternatives in the future.

Obligatory Composting

Food waste is probably the most insane environmental problem of the 21st century, speaking volumes of how our society takes food for granted. In fact, a 2013 report by the United NationsFood and Agriculture Organization found the land required to produce the unused food we waste each yeararound 1.3 billion tonneswould be the size of most of North America.

And most of that wasted food? It goes to landfills. Aside from making better choices about food consumption, it's also important to figure out what we as a society do with organic waste, which is why we predict that many local governments around the world will someday require mandatory composting to cut down on the problem.

In fact, we're already seeing this in places like San Francisco, which also passed ordinances to ban plastic water bottles and plastic bags.

Smarter E-Waste Recycling

Australia is easily one of the largest consumers of electronics in the world, generating as much as 600,000 tonnes of electronic or e-waste each year. In response to this problem, the Federal Government introduced the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (NTCRS) in 2011, which sought to prevent e-waste from ending up in landfills around the country. Thus far, the scheme has led to 40,000 computers, TVs, printers, keyboards, and phones being recycled each yearbut it's far from enough. 

This picture is consistent with what's happening around the world, with governments struggling with the growing e-waste problem. As more people realize that their old and broken electronics create a dangerous stream of waste that's difficult to recycle, we can expect this issue to attract increased international attention in the next decade or so.

At Smartbag, sustainability and smart waste management are issues close to our heart. As providers of reusable bags, we are all too aware of the need to be smarter with our waste. To learn more about our sustainable product line, get in touch with the Smartbag team on our Contact Page

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