8.20.2015

Technology of the future - Trend #2: New materials - new waste - new recycling technologies


This post deals with the second trend that I believe it will reshape the future of waste management and recycling.

So Trend #2: New materials - new waste - new recycling technologies and advances required.

The advances in materials' science will play an important role to recycling and waste management. The future of material's technologies (or the technologies of the future pf materials) will reshape recycling and waste management in an astonishing way. We are living in the beginning of the third industrial revolution, where a huge improvement in resource productivity has already started to happen. But resource productivity (boosted by the Internet of Things) is just a part of the whole picture. The advances in materials' science will play an important role to recycling and waste management. The future of material's technologies (or the technologies of the future pf materials) will reshape recycling and waste management in an astonishing way. Just have a look at the miracles created regarding superconductivity materials and you will have a good idea of the world of the new materials arriving. 

Researchers are also talking about the 9 materials that will change the future of manufacturing like cutting-edge foams, coatings, metals and other substances to make our homes, vehicles and gadgets more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. 

As in all industrial revolutions, a tsunami of new products will replace old ones and the term “waste” will be redefined on both the industrial and the domestic scale. If you want a recent example just see the new swimming wearable that Misfit and Speedo team up to create. But wearables are a small fraction of the new products that should find their own way to be recycled or managed as residuals. Many new products are rapidly produced and circulated worldwide and their consumption will create new challenges for our industry. 

The gradual wider application of 3D printers will also play in important role in redefining the term waste and recycling too. For an introduction to 3D printers and the change that they will bring, just have a look at Todd  Grimm's video

Spent photovoltaics, gadgets, mobile phones, wearables, nanomaterials, new composite packaging materials and complex biomaterials are just some examples of what the industry has to manage already, without adequate know-how and established practices. The shift to circular economy will certainly provide some solutions, sooner or later, but we can’t expect that this will be the prevailing paradigm in the near future, despite the efforts made.

In brief, what we can already suppose is that each and every new material or product it will need its own life-cycle analysis, its own management cycle and its own design for recycling, if and when recycling will be the case - otherwise, it will need a certain way to dispose it of safely, until recycling or recovery techniques will be available. We are living already this problem with the rapidly increasing stream of e-waste.

Unfortunately, I believe this is just the beginning of our problems, since  materials and new products are coming much faster that our know-how and capacity to manage them as recyclables or waste streams. 

3 comments:

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