Metropolitan waste management is one of the most overlooked ecological disasters of our time. With the world’s population increasingly concentrated in urban areas, waste generation has skyrocketed, putting immense pressure on waste management systems.
For instance, at present, the Indian population exceeds 1.3 billion, producing around 62 million tons of municipal solid waste every year. Of this total, 55 million tons are generated by the 377 million people living in urban areas. By 2030, the urban population is projected to increase to 600 million, and by 2050, to reach 814 million according to Global Recycling. Consequently, the amount of waste generated is expected to rise as well, making it crucial to find effective solutions to this problem.
To illustrate an example of the complexity of waste management in a big metropolis like New York City generates a whopping 14 million tonnes of waste annually according to The Guardian. This is managed through two separate systems – public and private. The public system deals with waste from residences, government buildings, and non-profits, accounts for about a quarter of the city’s total waste, and is handled by the Department of Sanitation. This makes the DSNY the largest waste management agency in the world, with an annual budget of $1.5bn (more than the annual budget of some countries).
All-in-all, to manage such a huge amount of waste, NYC employs a complex waste-management system that includes two city agencies, three modes of transport (trucks, trains, and barges), 1,668 city collection trucks, 248 private waste hauling companies, as well as a network of temporary and permanent facilities spanning the globe.
In this blog post, we will explore why metropolitan waste management is a major ecological disaster, and how smart waste management can help address the challenges and problems faced by big cities like New York.
The Challenges and Problems of Metropolitan Waste Management
Metropolitan waste management is a complex and challenging issue. Waste generation in big cities is on the rise, and waste management infrastructure is struggling to keep up with the growing demand.
One of the biggest challenges of metropolitan waste management is the lack of space for waste disposal. Landfills and recycling facilities require large amounts of land, which is scarce in urban areas. This has led to a reliance on landfill sites located far from the city center, which increases transportation costs and greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the distance that diesel trucks need for transporting the waste produced by New York citizens in just one single day (81% out of 13.000 tons ending up in landfills and incinerators) is equivalent to driving more than 312 times around the Earth.
A problem also connected with urban infrastructure is the reason that streets in some metropolitan cities in North America were not built to include also semi-underground or underground bins next to the road for cars, bike lanes, and paths for pedestrians. This makes them rely solely on the collection of trash bags, which could gather in large piles in case of a disturbed or delayed waste collection. Furthermore, these piles of trash can smell very bad and are often freely available for rats, pests, or even other animals. To address this issue, urban infrastructure must be redesigned to accommodate large underground bins that are both practical and aesthetically pleasing. Implementing this solution would not only improve waste management but also enhance the overall cleanliness and livability of metropolitan areas.
Another problem is the increasing amount of waste generated by urban populations. With a growing number of people living in cities and their rising incomes directly connected with higher living standards, waste generation has increased exponentially. This puts immense pressure on waste management systems, which often struggle to keep up with demand.
Smart Waste Management: A Solution to Metropolitan Waste Management
Smart waste management is a solution to the challenges and problems faced by metropolitan waste management. By leveraging technology, data analytics, and automation, smart waste management can optimize waste collection, transportation, and disposal, making waste management more efficient, effective, and sustainable.
For example, such smart waste solutions could include the use of sensors to monitor waste levels in semi-underground or underground bins, enabling refuse collectors to prioritize collection based on need making sure that only full bins will be collected and trucks will be fully loaded. Additionally, by optimizing waste collection routes within the city, but also to the sorting and processing facilities, smart waste management can reduce transportation costs and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as put less pressure on the traffic density.
Another benefit of smart waste management innovations is data-driven decision-making. These solutions can include the use of data analytics to predict future fill levels based on the data from the past, enabling the city to develop contingency plans for refuse collection. Additionally, by leveraging circularity solutions like take-back systems or deposit return schemes in order to improve waste separation and recycling, smart waste management can reduce the amount of waste that needs to be disposed of in landfills.
Metropolitan waste management is a major ecological disaster with a pessimistic outlook for the future considering the rising urbanization, but smart waste management offers a solution to the challenges and problems faced by big metropolitan cities with millions of citizens. By leveraging technology, data analytics, and automation, smart waste management can optimize waste collection, transportation, and disposal, making waste management more efficient, effective, and sustainable. With the growing focus on environmental responsibility and sustainability, smart waste management is an essential tool for addressing the challenges of metropolitan waste management.