Even Nature profits from Recycling
An example from the recycling industry shows that the environment also benefits from these new, connected sensor technologies. The well-planned and controlled processing of waste in incineration facilities offers the possibility to generate energy efficiently from existing secondary raw materials and also the chance to protect the environment and to reduce the CO2 emitted by burning fossil fuels excessively. The Italian recycling industry is working hard to find a solution for local waste management in cities such as Rome and Naples. Incinerators in northern Italy, which comply with EU directives, have been forced to accept waste generated in the rest of the country. It is a fact that plastic and products made from this waste accounted for 2.1%¹ of the Italian GDP¹ as one of Italy’s exports in 2018. In addition to national challenges, the waste issue also poses international hurdles that need to be overcome. Since China, with its ‘National Sword Policy’, seriously intervened in Europe’s recycling structures by only allowing the import of segregated plastic, the sorting of plastic in Italy has also become a relevant factor. This applies, for example, to the export of materials made of different polymers. In addition, the circular economy package stipulates mandatory recycling quotas, i.e. the reuse of waste, for example, as secondary raw materials, for EU member states in future. The recycling rate for plastic packaging is expected to rise to 55% by 2025. This also means that politicians will have to do their part to help close the loop. ‘It should be borne in mind that recycling a PET bottle is relatively easy, but supermarket sausage packaging is made up of different types of plastic, making it much more difficult to recycle and unsuitable for conventional recycling³,’ says one of the most renowned specialists in waste-processing technology and waste-management research Prof. Roland Pomberger from the University of Leoben, Austria. Technologies such as modern image processing and hyperspectral imaging in particular, which makes it possible for the human eye to see chemical structures, can help.
Even though Italy has already achieved the recycling targets for packaging in many areas, it lags behind when it comes to recycling plastics by 41%. This is another area in which integrated, state-of-the-art data-based analysis systems such as hyperspectral imaging can make an important contribution to keeping our environment cleaner and reducing marine pollution with non-reusable plastics.
¹ https://wko.at/statistik/laenderprofile/lp-italien.pdf, 20 August 2019
² http://www.worldstopexports.com/top-european-export-countries/, 28 August 2019
³ Interview with Prof. Pomberger taken from the Spirit of Styria business magazine, July 2019 issue