Recovering valuable resources from waste

Waste management is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. No, that’s not a load of old rubbish! The Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) has recently published a report called “From waste management to resource recovery: A developing sector”. According to this report, the UK’s waste management business grew from £5 billion in 2009 to £7.5 billion in 2010. Can you think of any other business that is growing at 50% per annum? During the same period, the industry also added 34,000 jobs, and now employs more than 128,000 people in the UK.

Innovative Recycling Methods

The fact is that as newer ways of recovering Recovering Valuable Resourcesvaluable resources from “waste” are invented and commercialised, there will be new business opportunities. Some business opportunities relate to collecting various categories of waste, such as household waste, commercial waste, hospital/medical waste, hazardous/toxic waste etc, from various locations and transporting it to processing facilities. Other businesses specialise in composting organic bio-waste from kitchens. Then there are those companies that specialise in managing landfills, which are currently the most commonly used avenue to dispose of household waste.

The problem of e-waste

As technology improves for recovering “recyclables”, there are specialists in extracting valuable metals from e-waste. Other specialists focus on extracting recyclables from AHP and converting them to plastic roof tiles, for example. Then there are companies that specialise in plasma gasification to recover material from old landfills and convert the residue into environmentally benign matter. There is also an entire segment that focuses on generating energy from various waste recycling processes and facilities.
Where the new meets the old, is of course, for construction of waste processing facilities, and thereafter, providing such companies with services such as plant security, transportation, utilities and the like.

Business Waste Management

At another level, there is need for scientists and technologists to research new ways of waste management and develop commercially viable, scalable processes that can be replicated elsewhere. Even if these businesses deal with “waste”, remember they are a business at their core. They will therefore need accountants, lawyers, HR, finance and marketing specialists as well as a team of plant engineers and so on. Like every other industry, there are many consultants who specialise in advising companies in this space.

Quite clearly, a robust business ecosystem is required for even waste management businesses to thrive. It is therefore not surprising that there is now a Chartered Institute of Wastes Management, to develop professionals with the required skills and competencies. Such professional bodies conduct training, besides certifying professionals in various facets of waste management.

Helping others to deal with the problem

The next step in the evolution of this nascent industry will be to export its expertise to other countries that need help in tackling environmentally critical problems such as waste management. Emerging markets like the BRIC nations will almost certainly need such services, as their governments continue to tighten legislation aimed at protecting the environment. Different countries may move at varying speeds, but given that no other aspect of planet earth demonstrates global interdependence as starkly as its environmental degradation, it is fair to say that there’s lots of cash to be made from trash.

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Did You Know?

spacer According to Defra, each person in England produced an average of 457 Kilograms of waste in 2009-10. Of this, an average of about 181 Kilograms per person was recycled. That left 60% of un-recycled waste, at an average of 276 kilograms per person.

From Protect Our Environment