Our population continues to grow, and as a result, we see a rise in waste products. The pandemic added a 30% increase in disposable goods. China has changed its regulations and will no longer accept waste imports. That means America and other nations need to find another method for disposing of tons of plastics, wool, cotton, ash, and paper previously shipped to them. Waste dumped into our oceans is polluting the planet and harming marine, animal, and human life. The good news is that 2021 has seen a transformation in waste management, and the innovation continues.

Here are five ways that the industry is poised to change:


Advancements in robotics and other cutting-edge technologies will allow material recovery facilities to upgrade their equipment and create cleaner streams of recyclables that could be more attractive to domestic buyers. Technological devices which can transform single-use plastic waste into a high-quality resin have been developed. Until now, creating resin caused high amounts of greenhouse gas, but it has been proven that the new technology causes significantly fewer emissions.


For years, people have been burning waste for fuel, which creates carbon emissions and is terribly detrimental to the environment. There has never been a successful way to generate clean energy from household waste until now. The process is known as waste gasification or pyrolysis. It involves cutting and drying non-recyclable trash such as packaging and bottles, then blasting it with 4,000-degree steam and oxygen to break it down into hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The solids left can be used as paving materials, and the gases produced are refined into greener fuels. If successful on a large scale, this process could repurpose a good portion of our household waste.


Green waste or biowaste makes up a considerable portion of the garbage generated in the world today. In 2021 we’ve seen increase initiatives to spur household composting; we expect this to continue going forward. California already has laws that mandate food-wasting businesses like restaurants, hotels,  and hospitals to recycle/compost their organic waste. Composting has been introduced across the nation, but it hasn’t reached its full potential, and in some areas, it is still highly underutilized.


The best way to reduce the damage caused by single-use plastics is to use less. If large retailers commit to reusable options, we will see a significant decrease in the amount of waste we are generating. Big companies like Walmart, Proctor, and Gamble, Kroger, and Walgreens have all committed to making reusable products that are either already available or will be very soon. Other retailers have created a buy and return policy where you might buy a reusable shampoo bottle at Walgreens and be able to return it to a Burger King and buy a Whopper in a reusable wrapper that you can return somewhere else. Many large grocery chains offer bulk products like rice, legumes, and coffee, where the customer supplies their bag.


Grants and incentives for waste reduction on the state and federal levels have been instated in 2021. These give businesses rebates for recycling and reducing their overall waste. New York has proposed a bill to get money flowing back to the recycling industry. Supporters of the bill say it will increase jobs, reduce waste, update trash sorting technologies and incentivize consumers and businesses to use more recyclable and reusable materials. States like California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Oregon are all proposing the same kind of legislature. The best part is that manufacturers pay for the program, not taxpayers. This bill is one of the first that requires manufacturers to take responsibility for the waste they create.

The efforts being made in 2021 are aggressively trying to impact waste reduction in America and globally. If governmental initiatives pass, technologies continue to develop, and businesses take responsibility for reducing their garbage, there may be cause for optimism.  With massive cooperation and coordination, it is possible to make a change.