As urban consumers our use of resources leaves a huge footprint on the planet. In Europe alone, 8 billion plastic bags find their way through to waste disposal systems, creating unnecessary environmental problems.
The OECD expects that its member countries will generate 45 percent more waste than it did in 1995. A new EU directive in 2013 places greater demands on European nations to cope with the increasing amount of garbage and the systems needed to take process it.
Studies show that a more effective system and smarter regulations can save financial resources and create new jobs. The research suggests savings in the region of € 72 billion and the creation of 400,000 new jobs in recycling industries.
But of course there is plenty of ways that both consumers and producers can take greater responsibility today. As consumers we can make more conscious choices at the store or when shopping online. Similarly, producers can make it easier for us, by offering appealing, well-designed products that are recyclable and resource-efficient.
There are also a number of pioneering technological advances in this field. A few weeks ago, I spoke with Jonas Törnblom of Envac, a company that develops systems for waste disposal and separation in residential areas.
He told me about the company’s new optical sorting technology now being launched in several Swedish cities including Stockholm and Eskilstuna, as well as the Norwegian capital, Oslo. Using camera technology, this fully automated system is able to separate waste on the basis of the color bag that it is contained in.
This new tool can contribute to more efficient garbage disposal in many sustainable urban development projects. Let’s hope that the EU directive instigates more examples of innovation in waste collection and management.