We live in the greatest times in history because technological advancements make our most daring dreams come true with high probability in the nearest future. At the same time, global challenges encourage our aspirations to become as ethical, unifying, and ecological as never before. Addressing both aforementioned opportunities, the name of this essay may be rephrased to “Dreaming of Sustainability”. Here I will provide three examples of where the sustainable packaging industry may be directed in the nearest future and hope that one day these ideas will meet reality.
Local shredding amenities
In many countries, consumers have done a great job at presorting their garbage by categories for consequent processing. As such, an important part of the recycling process was successfully delegated to individuals, who also shared a vision of sustainability and lowering the environmental pollution. Since an increasing number of consumers gladly contribute to the “cleaning of the planet”, I assume, they would wishfully take another step further in this mission if given the proper tools. Imagine, each garbage container is equipped with a small low-noise shredder, so the plastic or paper would be pre-processed before being taken to the facility. Not only does this saves resources for the recycling facility, but also increases the capacity of a container because the waste will be more compacted there. In turn, this will also affect how often the container should be emptied resulting in fewer garbage truck trips.
Local processing facilities (LPF)
If we take the previous idea another step forward, we could imagine recycling bins and containers transformed into tiny recycling plants (LPFs). This means that not only they will preprocess the waste, but also perform a combination of mechanical, chemical, and thermal reactions to convert shredded waste into a homogeneous mass. Of course, this will require proper safety conditions and substantial technological improvement, but, again, with current progress in bioengineering, robotics, and chemistry, this will not be a problem in the near future. Thus, with such household facilities, the source mass can be transported not only to a recycling industrial facility but directly to the producer facility to actually produce goods from it. This opens another incentivizing mechanism for regular consumers, because they can sell the produced mass personally or as a community to various industrial clients, creating an innovative business model of C2B, which is similar to selling excess solar power to the provider.
Local recycled products
The third and final stage, that I observe, takes the LPFs to the next level. I envision, that the mass received from the disposal bins can be molded into necessary goods right at the household. 3D printer technologies demonstrate how this can be done. In other words, you will be able to collect plastic bottles and bags, process them in your garage with LPF and mold a flower pot for your garden. The moment people will have the power to produce their own goods from industrial materials will turn the global economy around. The ecological effect of eliminating emissions from logistics, plants, and unethical labor practices will also lead to a bifurcation point in human history.
The suggested three stages of garbage processing evolution unveil the essence of recycling. Meanwhile, every step in localizing the recycling process imposes more expense and responsibility on the consumer, rather than on centralized facilities. Thus, the karmic circuit of consumer behavior is becoming more complete, because people may see the whole cycle and, therefore, modify their behavior accordingly. Whether they will decide to consume fewer products or more, either way, it will optimize the local and global ecosystem and will make the life of every single household more meaningful and comfortable
Essay by: Krasnaya Sofya
New York University