The idea of trash is simple. We all make it, and we all throw it away. The presence and disposal of waste are so commonplace that most people hardly think of it. Recycling, on the other hand, is a more complex idea.
A recent survey reports that 94 percent of Americans support recycling and 74 percent say it should be a priority. However, the EPA notes that the national average recycling rate is only 34.7 percent. There are many reasons we are failing at recycling, from education to infrastructure and logistics, to cost, to psychology. Recycling is complicated, and the current system, unfortunately, does not set us up for success.
Why are We So Bad at Recycling?
Recycling Rules Vary from Place to Place
One of the biggest challenges to recycling is that the recycling rules and regulations vary from place to place. Different countries, states, provinces, and even cities may have their own recycling regulations and guidelines. Some sites offer comprehensive recycling programs where a wide range of materials are accepted. At the same time, other places may offer more limited programs receiving only certain types of materials.
Current Manufacturing Processes Do Not Accommodate Recycling
Our current manufacturing process does not accommodate recycling. Most products are designed for single-use rather than reuse or recycling. On the other hand, most products are made with a combination of materials that are often hard to separate or recycle. The dyes, coatings, and additives also make recycling difficult, as the chemicals must be removed before recycling can occur.
For companies, it’s more economically feasible to manufacture products using new materials rather than recycled materials.
Accessibility & Lack of Recycling Infrastructure
The types of accepted materials vary depending on the local recycling infrastructure. Cardboard and paper are accepted in most places. However, finding a place to recycle your electronics and plastics can be trickier. Even if it’s possible to recycle something, it’s not always economically feasible as most materials get contaminated, making it difficult or impossible to recycle.
In addition, most Americans don’t have access to recycling resources where they live, even today, and rural recycling is a big challenge. Due to a lack of resources, small towns often don’t have the budget for recycling programs, and it’s difficult to prove the economic viability of such programs in order to attract external waste management companies.
Single-use Products are Convenient
Our current product landscape is full of single-use materials designed to be thrown away. For consumers, it’s generally easier to buy disposable products because this is more common and encouraged. There is also no need to clean or wash these products before and after use, and no extra effort is required to dispose of them. Reusable, compostable, and recyclable products, on the other hand, are generally more expensive and sometimes need a lifestyle change.
Misinformation about Recycling
Like most things, misinformation can be the biggest obstacle to recycling. It leads to confusion about what can and cannot be recycled. Mixing recyclables and non-recyclables contaminates the entire batch and makes recycling even more difficult. Sorting is the key to recycling, and misinformation also leads to incorrect sorting, contaminating the materials. When recycling looks too complicated, and they keep making mistakes, people often get discouraged and stop doing it altogether.
Wishcycling is putting materials in the recycling bin and wishing they will be recycled. Recycling, unfortunately, does not work that way. If a facility can process only plastics, sending glass or cardboard there will only lead to more issues. The mixing of recyclables and non-recyclables will contaminate the entire recycling stream.
Wishcycling can also make the already costly recycling process costlier. Sorting and removing non-recyclables from the recycling stream requires a lot of manual effort, making it expensive and burdensome.
How Can We Get Better at Recycling?
Don’t be a Wishcycler
Wishcycling threatens the recycling system, and there are multiple ways that you can avoid this behavior. Here are a few tips:
1. Check your local recycling guidelines and stay up-to-date on recycling rules and regulations.
2. Consider learning more about recycling and what materials can be easily recycled.
3. Think before you put something in the bin.
Harness the Power of Influence
Social influence plays a crucial role in pushing people towards recycling. As social creatures, we tend to do things that everyone is doing (for example, TikTok trends). Following the findings of an experiment conducted by psychologist Rober Cialdini in 1991, a series of TV ads were crafted. In the ads, people who recycled spoke approvingly of recycling while disparaging an individual who did not. The communities showing the ad recorded a 25% increase in recycling rates.
Shared commitment and accountability can be great motivators for recycling, and normalizing recycling behaviors will result in more people committing to this effort.
Make Recycling More Accessible
Making recycling more accessible is about more than just having recycling bins around the neighborhood. Cities and communities should provide information and education on what and how to recycle. Offering incentives like discounts or cashback can also be a great way to encourage recycling. Convenient collection options like curbside pickup or drop-off also remove the barriers for people to recycle.
Collect Recycling Data to Make Informed Decisions
We need quality data to encourage recycling and make more informed decisions. Surveys and tracking technologies (like TrashBot) can be a great way to gather data on the waste stream. You can then monitor and analyze the records to identify areas of improvement and make necessary changes. Data-driven education is also key in ensuring recycling programs’ ROI.
Investing in Recycling Technologies like TrashBot
With the threat of climate change, recycling is just not enough. When it comes to humans, there’s always some margin for error, which is why we need to invest in effective recycling technologies like TrashBot. TrashBot comes equipped with technology that sorts trash 300% more accurately than humans. It allows recycling programs to be more effective and drives significant environmental impact. Other companies like Recycleye are making waste management more efficient with sorting technology and AI robots.
A Collective Effort Toward Better Recycling
You need to practice to improve at anything, and the same goes for recycling. Getting better at recycling requires a combination of individual and collective effort, education, infrastructure, and investment in recycling technologies. Working together, we can make recycling achievable.
TrashBot Zero Deploys Nationwide in Facilities with Zero Waste Goals
January 3, 2022 —Chicago, Illinois. CleanRobotics, a global leader in green robotic technology, and ARO, a leader in supporting field operations and management of robotics, drones, and automated workforce, announce a partnership to bring national support to CleanRobotics’ fleet of Trashbot Zero.
“We’re excited to deploy our TrashBot system nationally with such a well-respected partner as ARO. Partnering with a company that shares many values with CleanRobotics will create opportunities to push our goals of building a sustainable and valuable waste ecosystem,” said Tanner Cook, CleanRobotics Co-Founder and Senior Vice President of Engineering.
CleanRobotics was founded in 2015 to revolutionize waste and resource recovery and provide innovative technological solutions to persistent environmental problems. As the company’s flagship product, TrashBot identifies and sorts waste items at the time of disposal and eliminates human error. Additionally, TrashBot provides high-quality data and insights to empower decision-making, making it an ideal solution for high-traffic facilities such as stadiums, airports, and hospitals. Since its launch, TrashBot has been implemented in Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, The National Aviary, and several other companies.
“We’re incredibly enthusiastic to support CleanRobotics. Trashbot Zero is a game-changing device that will not only help businesses and large venues with their recycling efforts but will also have a measurable impact on reducing recyclable waste from landfills. In a world of robotics designed to make life better, Trashbot Zero is designed to make the planet better. We’re happy to support CleanRobotics and to ensure a fast and successful rollout, with ongoing support of their devices” said Jeff Pittelkow, Managing Director of Robotics for ARO.
ARO is a global leader in Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS), including robotic financing, management, operations, customer success, and support. Through ARO’s unique RaaS model, manufacturers can enjoy capital preservation and operational commercialization. End-customers can enjoy a high level of management, support, and oversite of their new robotic employees. These management services include implementation, daily operations, 24/7 remote monitoring, robotic fleet management, account management, break/fix support, dedicated personnel, and complete robot lifecycle management.
Founded in 1990 and headquartered in Chicago, ARO has over 30 years of experience in managed services and operations, specializing in integrating people, processes, and technology.
A mission-driven company combining recycling AI, robotics, computer vision, and machine learning, CleanRobotics brings new life to recycling programs and the circular economy. The CleanRobotics team is driven by the core belief that sorting waste accurately at the source is the best way to ensure recyclables and other recoverable materials are diverted from landfills, driving substantial environmental impact. CleanRobotics’ mission ensures the effectiveness of recycling programs at high-traffic facilities while securing the ROI of such programs.
A city is often known for its buildings, but construction and maintenance of those buildings consume resources at a frightening rate. To address climate change and meet ESG goals, LEED offers a healthy, efficient, green framework for buildings and communities. LEED projects have diverted an aggregated 80 million tons of waste from landfills, and the volume is expected to increase to 540 million tons by 2030.
In this article, we will discuss how LEED works, LEED for various projects, LEED-certified cities and communities, and the role of waste management.
How LEED Works
To get LEED-certified, a project needs to earn points and go through a verification and review process by GBCI (Green Business Certification Inc.). Projects earn points by following the prerequisites and credits that address carbon, water, energy, waste, health, transportation, material, and indoor environmental quality. The awarded points correspond to the following levels of LEED certification:
Level Platinum: 80+ points
Level Gold: 60-79 points
Level Silver: 50-59 points
Level Certified: 40-49 points
LEED for Different Projects
LEED is not specific to buildings of a certain type. It’s for buildings of all sizes and types and in any building phase, including new construction, interior fit-out, operations and maintenance, and core and shell. To get started with LEED certification, you can select the rating system that best fits your project.
LEED for building design and construction (BD+C) is for new buildings and major renovations. Alongside new construction and core and shell, it includes applications for schools, retail, data centers, hospitals, etc.
LEED for interior design and construction (ID+C) is for complete interior fit-out projects, including commercial interiors, retail, and hospitality.
LEED for building operations and maintenance (O+M) is for existing buildings undergoing improvement work with little to no construction.
LEED for neighborhood development (ND) is for new land development or redevelopment projects. These projects can be at any development stage, from conceptual planning to under construction.
LEED for home is for all residential buildings. However, buildings and homes taller than four stories can also use LEED BD+C.
LEED for cities is for entire and sub-sections of cities. It can measure and manage the city’s water consumption, energy consumption, transportation, waste, and human experience.
LEED-certified Cities and Communities
Since the 20 years that LEED was created, it has been established as a universally agreed-upon holistic system to reduce environmental impacts. Many cities and communities inside and outside of the United States are LEED-certified. From public spaces to airports and much more, LEED is encouraging growth with an emphasis on sustainability. We will discuss some LEED-certified cities and communities and what they’re doing right.
Las Vegas, USA
The famed city of Las Vegas needs no introduction, but did you know it’s a LEED-certified level Gold city with a 4-star rating? Las Vegas became LEED-certified in August 2020 when it implemented strategies to improve the sustainability and standard of living of its residents.
Balboa Park, San Diego
Balboa Park is a historic park in San Diego that got awarded LEED for community certification in 2021. Currently, it’s the only national historic landmark recognized for sustainability achievement through the United States Green Building Council.
Alongside Balboa Park, other places in San Diego, like the San Diego International Airport, have also adopted a zero-waste plan. The Airport Authority successfully diverted nearly 60,000 tons of materials (that would otherwise go to waste) when incorporating construction and demolition waste. They also implemented waste prevention strategies like material reuse and waste diversion strategies like recycling and composting to divert waste from landfills.
Beijing Daxing International Airport, China
Among international buildings, Beijing Daxing Airport is the first project in China that gained the LEED Platinum certification. It is thought to be a driving force for China’s economic growth, emphasizing green and sustainable development.
At the top of the waste hierarchy is source reduction. It’s important because it encourages the use of innovative construction strategies (like prefabrication) to minimize material cutoffs and inefficiencies.
Building and Material Reuse
The second most effective strategy to reduce waste is the reuse of building materials. The use of existing materials reduces the environmental impact of the manufacturing process. Replacing existing materials with new ones requires production and transportation, and it takes many years to offset the associated greenhouse gases via increased building efficiency. In LEED, the reuse of materials is highly encouraged and rewarded. In LEED v4, more flexibility and rewards are offered to all material reuse by projects both in situ and off-site.
The most common way to divert waste from landfills is through recycling. Recycling largely depends upon waste sorting, and with recycling technology such as smart bins, it’s easier to sort and process materials right at the time of disposal. Smart bins like TrashBot reduce waste contamination and keep materials in the production stream for longer.
Waste to Energy
Lastly, since a secondary market does not exist for every material, the next best way to divert waste is by converting it to energy. Many countries, including Sweden and Saudi Arabia, are implementing waste-to-energy solutions to reduce the burden on landfills. It can be a viable solution if strict air quality measures are enforced.
How Smart Waste Management Can Help with LEED
Climate change is the biggest threat to our current and future generations. In one of his tweets, former U.S. President Barrack Obama wrote:
“We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.” —President Obama.
Technology has revolutionized many systems, and smart waste management offers an opportunity to create greener communities. Smart waste management is faster, more efficient, and more cost-effective and helps businesses reduce their impact on the environment, which is LEED’s highest priority. Creating less waste means reducing exposure to pollution and preserving land and habitat.
Did you know that food, packaging, and containers account for nearly 45 percent of the materials landfilled in the United States according to EPA. The food wasted in the United States is enough to fill the Rose Bowl Stadium every day. These numbers are astonishing for a world that’s already on the verge of a climate crisis. We require a shift in the consumer packaging industry for a zero-waste future now more than ever.
A report by McKinsey & Company revealed that sustainability is becoming a priority in the packaging value chain. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic changed the consumer perspective, and concerns about food hygiene and safety took the front seat, sustainable products and packaging are still an important issue for many.
In this article, we will discuss why reducing waste is important in the consumer packaging industry, how to reduce and eliminate packaging waste, and how companies and countries around the world are advancing sustainability in packaging by shifting to recyclable and compostable alternatives.
Why Reducing Waste is Important in the Consumer Packaging Industry
The most important reason for reducing packaging waste is that it is bad for the environment. In the United States, containers and packaging alone contribute to more than 23 percent of materials in landfills. Eliminating packaging or shifting to reusable or compostable packaging alternatives will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve energy, and be better for the planet.
In addition, most of the litter on beaches and in waterways is packaging (mainly food packaging and containers). Fish, birds, and other aquatic creatures are often harmed by ingesting packaging and other such debris. Scientists have found large amounts of microplastic in the guts of deep-dwelling ocean mammals like whales. This debris can also cause navigation hazards for boats and losses to the fishing, shipping, and tourism industries.
Lastly, as people understand the implications of packaging waste, they’re opting more for sustainable packaging. In particular, younger consumers are ready to pay higher prices for products in sustainable packaging. A report by Trivium Packaging shows that it’s important for 67 percent of consumers to buy products that come in recyclable packaging. These shifts in the minds of consumers are ultimately driving substantial change in the industry.
How to Reduce (and Eliminate) Waste in the Consumer Packaging Industry
Reducing and ultimately eliminating packaging waste is a massive challenge. It’s also something that cannot be avoided further. The current system we have in place is not equipped to handle different types of waste, and although hard plastic can be recycled, food-grade packaging is another story. Even where there is infrastructure in place, it differs from place to place.
The most effective method for packaging waste prevention is by source reduction, where you prevent unneeded materials from ever being created. Not only does it help save money but you also save purchasing, handling, transport, and disposal costs. To reduce packaging waste from the source, start by purchasing only what you need to avoid excess waste.
Try reusing items that you cannot avoid purchasing. The first step is to stop using disposable or single-use materials. For example, instead of serving food or beverages in a disposable plate or cup, try switching to one that can be reused. Companies should also encourage people to bring their own utensils or start offering refills instead of packed bottles. A report by the EPA shows that the “bring your own” container program can be beneficial financially for both businesses and consumers in the long run. If a business spends 15 cents on each disposable package item, then offering a discount of 10 cents can encourage consumers to “bring their own” containers and save the business money. If only three customers per hour bring their own containers, stores can reduce their solid waste by 378 lbs and save $657 annually.
Another interesting initiative taken toward a zero-waste future is zero-waste stores. Designed to encourage conscious consumerism, these stores stock bulk products in large containers or jars instead of disposable packaging. Consumers are encouraged to bring their own containers or bags, or use the reusable, recyclable and compostable packaging options provided by the store.
Use recyclable or compostable packaging. For example, Nestle has switched to paper straws from plastic straws. Alternatively, companies can opt for cardboard or paper bags over plastic bags.
Companies Moving Toward More Sustainable Packaging
Amidst the global climate crisis, many big food companies are making changes to the way they operate. Here is how companies like Mars, Kellogg’s, and Starbucks are shifting toward sustainability in packaging:
“For Mars, packaging waste doesn’t align with our vision for a world where the planet is healthy. There is no sustainable product without sustainable packaging. We’re taking action to support the circular economy through investments and innovation, working toward a world where packaging material never becomes waste, but is reused, recycled or composted.” — Mars
“In support of the company’s goal to reduce waste sent to landfill from stores and direct operations, Starbucks is shifting away from single-use plastics, promoting reusability and championing the use of recycled content, driven by a broader shift towards a circular economy. ” — Starbucks
“Kellogg has one of the smallest plastic packaging footprints among peer food companies and 76% of our packaging is recyclable globally. Most of our other packaging uses either recycled-content paperboard cartons or corrugated cardboard. We also use composite cans, and for our bars and convenience foods, we use flexible plastic packaging. We are aggressively driving cutting-edge innovation, looking at how packaging can protect and enhance our foods and have an even smaller environmental impact.” — Kellogg’s
The Global Shift in Consumer Packaging
To address the consumer packaging waste issue, many countries and regions are taking significant steps like introducing regulations to drive sustainability. In the United States, 16 of the 50 states have statewide regulations around packaging waste. These regulations tend to target single-use plastics like cups and shopping bags and aim to increase the overall recycling rates.
In sustainability, Europe has progressed further than most other regions. Under the New EU Directive for Single-use Plastics, measures were announced to reduce leakage of certain single-use plastics products that were consistently found on European beaches. Some countries like the UK, Germany, and France are taking things a step further with Extended Producer Responsibilities (EPR). They’re aiming for more aggressive recycling targets and charging fees for using non-recyclable packaging.
Packaging waste is a problem that threatens the air, waters, and overall health of our planet. It does not align with the vision of a zero-waste future and requires an immediate solution. A commitment to reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging will reduce landfills by as much as 23% and the solid waste stream by 39 million tons per year. It’s vital that we work together to reduce packaging waste to ensure a better and healthier tomorrow.
To apply, please contact: Tanner Cook Senior Vice President of Engineering & Co-Founder email@example.com
CleanRobotics is looking for a mechanical/robotics engineer (hardware/software) with experience in electro-mechanical engineering for commercial product development. Working both as a team member and individually, you will carry out engineering design/analysis along with the appropriate level of system documentation and testing ready for field deployment. Specific duties include; supporting current product lines, designing new products, designing systems for testing/service, developing and implementing software for control and user interfaces, interfacing production and aftermarket support. Some supervisory responsibilities (including: occasional leadership roles, scheduling, logistics and delegation within the team) may be expected depending on the seniority of the candidate.
Develop hardware and software systems for commercial deployment
Develop engineering requirements, specification and validation criteria
Interact with vendors and customers for both planning and troubleshooting purposes
Report complex technical detail to specialists and non-specialists
Support manufacturing with hardware requirements, technology integration, and maintenance
Bachelor or M.S. Engineering
2+ years’ experience with product design
Knowledge of 3D CAD tools (Dassault, Solidworks, AutoDesk)
Experience with common engineering simulation/prototyping tools
Linux development experience
Experience programming in Python, C++
Willingness for field work and travel
Excellent communication and remote work skills
Nice to Have:
Bachelor or M.S. Mechanical, Electrical or Computer Engineering
Experience in commercial/consumer product development at volume
Experience with embedded systems or internet-of-things products
Knowledge of Solidworks CAD, Fusion 360 and Eagle EDA
Experience working with machine learning systems (especially those using computing vision sensors and software)
Partial work from home, preferred location in the Denver/Boulder area or North East USA.
To apply, please contact: Tanner Cook Senior Vice President of Engineering & Co-Founder firstname.lastname@example.org