What does the future hold for sewage and waste management?
According to the United Nations (UN), the world’s population will rise by 20% from 6.5 billion inhabitants to eight billion by 2025. Waste volumes are generally determined by the size of a population in a given area and a population’s consumption habits. If both rise steadily, then there is every chance that waste volumes will reach uncomfortably high levels in the future.
Developed nations including the United States and Sweden are already utilising imaginative ways to dispose of most of their sewage; some of which can even be recycled or transformed into much-needed compost. On the other side of the world, emerging economies such as China have been struggling with overpopulation.
Furthermore, they lack the infrastructure and technology to process all of the waste and sewage that is generated there. It begs the question: just how can the world improve its volume of waste and sewage treatment? The following innovations could certainly play a part in minimising our effect on the wider environment.
Sales of biodegradable plastics have been rising by a fifth year-on-year, but much of today’s ‘biodegradable’ plastic is still too inefficient to process. However, there are plans afoot to unveil a type of plastic capable of degrading within three hours. Experts at the North Dakota University have developed a plastic that degrades when sunlight hits the material, known as phototriggers.
Automated waste segregation
There have already been examples of businesses developing machine automation prototypes designed to use robotics to detect types of waste when filtered on a production line and take the necessary steps to sort it for processing. Segregating all types of waste is essential if we are to improve the efficiency of our future waste management.
The amount of energy housed in wastewater can be ten times more than the energy needed to treat it. Consequently, some organisations have recognised that generating energy from wastewaters is a hugely efficient – and profitable – power source. The technology is known as the water-energy nexus. This can generate more power for communities. However, it also helps to minimise pollution in our waterways, resulting in cleaner living water for all.