Waste not, want not in the future

As the world population grows and we consume more, the need to reduce waste and recycle more is a key issue to be solved. Read on to discover how industries are tackling their resource issues and consider where yours can make substantive and simultaneous improvements to both waste reduction and profitability.
What is changing?

Service provision

  • Public transport and better waste management worldwide could generate net savings of US$17 trillion by 2050.
  • From food production to transportation micro-scaling services could result in more productive and more sustainable cities.
  • New tagging and tracking technologies could enable manufacturers and retailers to aggregate what is currently perceived as low-value packagingwaste in more economically-appealing volumes
  • Major efficiency improvements could be achieved by horizontally interconnecting individual systems such as energy, water, sanitation andwaste management.
  • Reverse supply chains will result in new trading routes as parts re-processing,recycling and manufacturing will likely take place in different locations.
  • Material science innovation will help recyclers know how to smartly use theirwaste stream to make valuable products.
  • Technavio’s analysts forecast the global waste heat recovery market in oil and gas industry to grow at a CAGR of 7.6% during the period 2014-2019.
  • In fairness to the smart fridge, well-timed updates about food could prevent waste – a clear benefit that does a lot to justify the device’s existence.
  • San Francisco will see zero waste sent to the landfills.
  • Cities that invest in non-sewer sanitation are going to be far more resilient.

Collaborative economy

  • There is a business case for the CE as significant resource efficiencies could bring a new wave of smart, sustainable growth and competitiveness.
  • A strategy for plastics in the circular economy covers action on the interface between chemicals, products and waste legislation and will reduce marine litter.

Resource use

  • Further measures to increase resource EU productivity by 30% by 2030 could boost GDP by nearly 1%.
  • Reintroducing swill-feeding in the EU could see the costs faced by pig farmers fall by 50% as they swap grain and soya bean-based feed for heat-treated foodwaste.
  • Landfill operators will be empowered by the positioning of environmental sensors to monitor environment parameters such as water and air quality to prevent the landfill site from becoming a breeding ground for rodents, flies or other disease vectors.
  • Achieving greater sustainability will require the concept of “waste” to evolve and advanced technologies to be developed that allow value and utility to be gleaned from such “wastes”.
  • Recycling of rare earth metals from electronic wastes is gaining prominence and is expected to contribute to the market growth during the forecast period.
  • The main environmental threat from biodegradable waste is the production of methane and other greenhouse gases.
  • There will be a large volume of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries needing to be recycled in five to 10 years when they have finished their lives.
  • By 2025 the amount of recycled material in a new AA battery could be as high as 40 percent.
  • Biofuels produced from biomass such as plants or organic waste could help to reduce both the world’s dependence on oil and CO2 production.
  • A “Green” toilet that uses no water and turns human waste into electricity and clean water will be trialed in 2016.
  • Sulfur is a waste product from many industrial processes and could be an alternative to oil from which to manufacture plastics.
  • Scientists are currently building what they hope will be the first experimental fusion reactor to produce more energy than it uses.
  • Waste gases and flue gases generated by industrial emitters and power plants could be captured and used to generate renewable fuels.

Change management

  • Minimizing waste will require technical innovations, legislative reform, and a recalibration of consumer expectations.
  • Smart technology and more efficient manufacturing methods could go a long way towards reducing waste.
  • Radical legislation could be used to limit the consumption of scarce materials (e.g. enforcing stringent recycling or efficiency criteria, introducingresource quotas for businesses, etc.).


  • A risk of prioritizing recycling is that there is a risk getting locked into “needing” waste to run the biogas facilities.


  • Better ecodesign, waste prevention and reuse could bring net savings for EU businesses of up to €600 billion per year.
  • Approaches such as eco-design will play a significant role in maintaining the use of products, components and materials and retaining their value.
  • Recycling will turn waste into a resource and extending product lifetimes will help preserve natural resources.
  • Moving towards a more circular economy could deliver opportunities including reduced pressures on the environment.
  • Recycling and waste-management services could profit from new business opportunities in emerging countries.

waste · food · technologies · production · resource · manufacturing · transport · sustainability · costs · circular economy · growth · cities · water · energy · recycling · efficiency · environment · innovation · productivity · waste management

Learn more

What future opportunities and risks could arise for your organization from advances in ‘Recycling? Develop your answer and response here.

Find more sources and resources on Shaping Tomorrow , some of which were used in this Trend Alert, or ask us for our ready-made and free, in-depth PowerPoint report or more detailed GIST briefing on this or any other topic of interest to you.

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