ISWA’s global survey: 4th industrial revolution and the waste sector

ISWA, Survey, 4th industrial revolution, waste management, wastelesss future, mavropoulos, recycling

ISWA recently launched the first global survey that aims to examine the attitudes of the waste management sector towards the emergence of the fourth industrial revolution. The survey targets to identify the waste industry’s opinions and views, as well as  to understand the expected impact of the fourth Industrial Revolution on waste management and recycling.

In my recent blog for the Waste Management World magazine, I stressed that “The fourth industrial revolution will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. The waste management industry will not be an exception; it will be redefined too. In each and every industrial revolution the discovery of new techniques and new materials drives the creation of new types of products. Each and every new product, sooner or later becomes a new type of waste, in a virtuous cycle that brings always surprises to the waste industry”.

The fourth industrial revolution brings an abundance of new fantastic solutions that are already reshaping our world and the potential for a wasteless future is more than clear and realistic, at least in the areas and the supply chains of the world that will be capable to integrate the miracles of the fourth industrial revolution within the waste and recycling industry. However, as I explained in ISWA President’s blog, the problem is that our experiences from all the previous industrial revolutions indicate a different, risky pathway too. For the last 200 years, whenever we created advanced technological solutions that allowed us to deliver more products using less materials and energy, the actual response was to increase exponentially the consumption. Thus, despite the fact that waste materials or wasted energy per unit was much lower due to industrial optimization practices, the result was to accelerate resource depletion and waste generation in unbelievable rates, creating what is called the Anthropocene, the era in which the human footprint is transformed in a geological one.

So the questions are tough. Are we going to utilise the fourth industrial revolution towards a circular economy or we will just accelerate resource depletion with advanced efficiency? Are we going to redesign products, business models and social practices or we are going to continue with fast food, fast fashion and built-in obsolescence? Are we going to rethink, reboot and remake the manufacturing and thus, the waste management sector too or we are going to simply watch new waves of exotic waste arriving and try to manage them with end of pipe solutions?

We still do not know the answers to those questions, but we definitely know that the answers depend on our collective and individual responses. Join the survey, spend 5-10 minutes to complete it and help us to be prepared for the disruption ahead. Help us to create a collective Roadmap, the mindsets and the tools required for remaking, rethinking and redefining one of the most crucial elements of our day to day lives: the waste industry.

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