In recent years, progress in the world of recycling has not been at the forefront of consumer affairs or technology. However, with a sudden shortage of ever growing landfill sites and the realisation of how threatened marine creatures and other species of wildlife are by an increasing flow of plastics, the recycling industry is taking centre stage. But what sort of innovations are likely to be seen during 2018?
Legislation usually makes a large impact. The introduction of a 5p tax on free reusable plastic bags has significantly reduced the amount of bags in circulation. This success is being followed up by proposals to ban plastic straws and levy a 25p tax on disposable coffee cups. These are made of paper but lined with polyethylene which needs specialised recycling treatments of which there is at present, a very limited number of facilities in the United Kingdom. With 7 million cups being used and discarded every day, urgent action is sure to be taken much sooner. Manufacturers in the snack and pet food industries use similar materials, known as flexible packaging, to package their products and will no doubt already be investigating different methods.
Many major companies are taking steps ahead of any new laws to implement ecologically friendly decisions that are bound to be popular with consumers. One supermarket brand has already voluntarily banned the use of plastic packaging on its shelves. Other brands are sure to follow their lead and quickly find alternatives. Unnecessary packaging has been reduced in recent years, a trend which is sure to continue.
Local Authorities and Residents
Regular collections of rubbish from households across Britain have been largely streamlined with an emphasis placed on residents using a variety of wheelie bins, bags and containers to sort their recyclable waste at source. Publicity in this department is likely to increase, encouraging a more efficient use of these methods and proposals are underway to coordinate various authorities with a single set of guidelines.
Industry and Technology
There are several existing companies that specialise in recycling waste into resources that can be used again. For instance, plastics can be treated and processed to produce a variety of heavy fuels with a low sulphur content, oils and wax, some of which are useful in other manufacturing industries. Investment in the creation of more facilities to deal with this “circular economy” is sure to increase. Robotic technology is steadily rising in the recycling industry where robots are already being implemented to sort rubbish more efficiently.
The Way Forward
Everyone, from householders to the giants of retail and manufacturing, is aware of the urgent need to reduce the carbon footprint. Progress in 2018 is likely to see more voluntary measures to reduce the use of disposable plastics by both consumers and companies. Manufacturing will also increase their efforts to find solutions to creating environmentally sound packaging. The popularity of new industries that can recycle waste for fuel will obviously attract investment.