As the volume of municipal solid waste continues to grow – it's expected to almost double in the next decade, according to a 2012 World Bank report – engineers and officials are looking increasingly toward smarter management.
Navigant Research recently released a report showing the market for smart municipal solid waste technology will reach $6.5 billion in 2023.
... the adoption of innovative technologies will result in more integrated waste management offerings that move beyond the traditional use of labor, diesel trucks, and conventional landfills,” says Mackinnon Lawrence, research director with Navigant Research. “This dynamic evolution in an otherwise stable industry offers a wealth of opportunities for both existing waste hauler stakeholders and new waste-management industry market entrants.”
At the heart of the smart waste evolution, according to the report, is a focus on reducing operational costs and using MSW as a strategic renewable resource for material and energy recovery.
Here are four smart municipal solid waste management innovations.
1. E-waste Mining: In June, California-based startup BlueOak Resources broke ground on a new venture in Osceola, Ark., designed to recover valuable minerals from e-waste. In an article detailing the project, Fortune magazine reported:
Although between 7% and 10% of the world’s gold and 30% of the silver produced goes into electronics, only 15% of the 50 million tons of e-waste created globally each year undergoes any recycling. Instead, the vast majority of devices are dumped in landfills or exported to countries where e-waste is hand-picked over open fires.
2. Solar landfills: A recent National Geographic blog post detailed a solar power project in Vermont, under construction on the site of a closed landfill. For a growing number of communities, solar farms are an ideal option for generating revenue from open space that may not necessarily be suitable for other uses. Massachusetts has the highest number of landfill solar farms and now generates more than 78 megawatts of power from these operations, National Geographic reports.
3. Waste-to-biofuels Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Mayor Don Iveson recently told the Los Angeles Times:
... we are partnering with a private company, Enerkem Alberta Biofuels, that has built Canada's first waste-to-biofuels facility on the site, which will take materials that cannot be recycled or composted and turn them into methanol and ethanol.
4. Greener Garbage Trucks: Chicago has North America's first all-electric trash truck. Although initially more expensive, the truck, designed by Motiv Power Systems, is "one-eighth the cost of a gas truck per mile when factoring in electricity and gas prices," DNAinfo Chicago reports. Kevin Campbell, manager of fleet services and automotive procurement for the City of Chicago, said future plans call for investigating the possibility of using solar or wind power to generate the electricity needed to charge the vehicle. Watch the truck in action below.