Wastecon/ISWA World Congress 2017: A huge shift is coming

Wastecon/ISWA World Congress 2017: A huge shift is coming

Speakers weigh in on a new study on the impact of technology on the waste industry.

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September 28, 2017

The findings of a global survey into the future of waste management were presented during the Silver Spring, Maryland-based Solid Waste Association of North America’s (SWANA’s) and the Wien, Austria-based International Solid Waste Association’s (ISWA’s) combined Wastecon/ISWA World Congress Sept. 25-27, 2017, in Baltimore.

During a keynote session titled Smart Technologies and Their Impact on Collection & Transportation of Waste, speakers from technology firms weighed in on the study "The Impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the Waste Management Sector,” available for download at www.iswa.org, and gave their impressions of the waste industry’s embracing of technology.

The survey polled 1,000 of the industry's leading CEOs, scientists, professionals and decision-makers. ISWA President Antonis Mavropoulos shared that 97 percent of the participants believed the waste industry will be affected by technology and 50 percent of them believed that the impact will already be significant by 2030, reflecting the feeling that changes are already on the way.

“We wanted to make the industry aware that a huge shift is coming,” said Mavropoulos. “If waste management industry thinks it will be kept out, they are making a big mistake.”

The results show there is also an opportunity in emerging and developing economies to develop waste management infrastructure which is fit for the future, and the investment opportunities are also manifold.

"The survey highlights the hope that the fourth industrial revolution will deliver solutions to several challenges related to waste management, from ecodesign to waste prevention and circular economy around the world," said Mavropoulos, considering the positives and potential of this broad change.

ISWA's survey anticipates that the largest impacts will be on fully robotic waste sorting and recycling plants and digitalized consulting and engineering, amongst many others.

For more than 80 percent of the respondents, the fourth industrial revolution will make circular economy a reality for most of consumer goods and for around 50 percent mobile apps, new sensors, social media and big data will attract most of the investments during the coming years.

“The fourth industrial revolution will impact upon all industries and waste management won't escape this," ISWA said in a news release. “It made clear that the industry must respond in an integrated and comprehensive manner, involving all stakeholders of the global policy.”

Among the speakers, Vivek Agrawal, advisor, Kanak Resources Management Ltd., and trustee, Centre for Development Communication, India, noted whether technology is positive or negative remains to be seen. He acknowledged that efficiency may improve but that it may “displace people of their lively hood,” which he said was “a bit chilling for companies like ours.”

Don Diego Padilla, vice president of FleetMind, Canada, said the industry “hasn’t been a high-tech market for a very long time.”

Wastecon/ISWA World Congress was Sept. 25-27, 2017, at the Baltimore Convention Center.