Letter from the Editor: Recycling technologies on the rise in 2024
This year has been a whirlwind of innovation and transformation in the recycling industry. Amidst the challenges presented by global markets, ever-changing waste streams, and labour shortages, the strides made in automation and artificial intelligence (AI) propelled us forward in 2023. While AI has been a standout contributor to innovation, quality control, and efficiency, other noteworthy trends and technologies are on the rise, each playing a vital role in shaping the landscape of recycling.
Looking toward 2024, gamification – adding game-like aspects to recycling – is gaining momentum. Municipalities and companies are increasingly adopting reward-based systems to infuse an element of fun into recycling efforts, and by encouraging sustainable behaviours and participation in recycling programs, gamification is in turn expected to increase recycling rates. Interactive recycling and waste bins equipped with audio or visual cues have paved the way, but gamification now extends beyond this. There are multiple apps on the market today that encourage users to collect litter and bring it to a collection point to be rewarded with prizes such as vouchers, electronics, cash, and even cryptocurrency.
On the operational front, blockchain technology is emerging as a game changer. Many recyclers are starting to turn to this technology to address challenges related to traceability, transparency, and authentication. Blockchain technology creates an unchangeable record of a material's movement throughout the recycling supply chain, ensuring that each step in the process – from collection to processing – is securely documented. This enhances accountability, reduces fraud, and provides stakeholders with a traceable history of recycled materials.
Interestingly, blockchain technology and gamification are already starting to see overlap. The app Plastic Bank, for instance, encourages users to collect plastic waste in exchange for bonuses, which, in turn, support individuals in need by providing basic necessities such as groceries and health insurance. Blockchain technology ensures the traceability of the collected items, offering users and businesses a personalized view of their individual impact while simultaneously providing verifiable income to those in need.
As the recycling industry navigates the considerable changes witnessed this year and the anticipated transformation ahead, the interplay between technology and recycling will only continue to grow more intriguing as technology advances. As 2023 comes to a close, I'm excited to see how the industry leverages these advancements to bring us closer and closer to achieving a fully circular economy. On behalf of the entire Recycling Product News team, we look forward to another year of sharing essential news and in-depth articles with you as we continue to cover the latest developments moving the recycling industry forward.