Waste management industry trends

The waste management industry has experienced shifts in recent years in waste volumes, finding new revenue streams, and growth in recycling. We asked our Zintro experts to report on trends in waste management and how the industry will change in the next several years

Dr. Art HenSchen, an expert in waste management collection, says that technology continues to impact the industry as it looks for effective ways to collect and dispose of waste and recycle with efficiency. “We all want to be green and sustainable idealists, but I’m not sure that progress can be defined by having a garbage truck, followed by a recycle truck, followed by a yard waste truck, followed by a leaf collection truck, followed by a bulk waste truck, followed by a street sweeper. It does not make any sense,” says HenSchen. “The impact on our municipal streets by all of this heavy truck traffic is taking it’s toll, not to mention the increased traffic and safety situation this creates. Safety, fuel, emissions and highway impact needs to be considered.”

HenSchen says that he continually sees new products in the form of gasification, incineration, bio-mass solution to disposal that costs millions of dollars to construct and require long-term commitments to fund and maintain. “Taxpayers find themselves entangled in projects that fail or escalate in costs, and to which they are bound to for as much as twenty years,” he says.  “Our recycling efforts are capital intensive, and it seems that we ship the bulk of it off to China and Far East Asia to be made into products we buy back. Finding new revenue streams requires ingenuity and creativity. Some entrepreneurs offer convenience, providing carry out service to apartment and condo dwellers, and WM now offers the Bagster as a novelty for cleanups.”

HanSchen says that how the industry changes over the next several years will be dependent upon the economy. “We may be forced to return to the tried and true one pass collection and resort to no more pickup, transport, and disposal. If the economy recovers I have no doubt the industry will transition accordingly.”

Peter Cartwright, an engineering consultant, says that wastewater treatment will emphasize recovery and recycle. “The lynchpin technologies used will be the crossflow, pressure-driven membrane separation processes of microfiltration, ultrafiltration, nanofiltration and reverse osmosis. There will be less chemical addition used in an effort to reduce sludge,” he says.

Louis Fow, a plastics industry consultant, says that in the US and world markets,  technology is being developed to process up to 90 percent of the waste stream into useful products. “The waste streams consist of a variety content including metals, plastic, glass, and cellulose fiber (paper). In western countries, cellulose fiber makes up 50 to 65 percent of the waste disposal in curb side collection. Metals, steel, copper, and aluminum have ready markets. The plastic content in waste is 6 to 11 percent of the stream of HDPE and PET,” he says.

Fow says that low density films are another major components of part of the waste stream and technology exists to use it all. “Other plastics in post-consumer content are not in sufficient quantity to recycle efficiently. Glass is about 6 to 9 percent and can be recycled into a number of products very profitably. Paper can be efficiently processed into high quality wet-lap for introduction into paper making or can by several processes be converted into energy products, such as electricity or a low grade fuel.”

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