Three industries at the forefront of Green Growth

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Globally, waste management remains a complex issue with no straightforward solution. According to a 2014 Waste Atlas Report, almost 40% of the world's waste needlessly ends up in rubbish tips.

Much of this waste sits near vastly populated urban areas and cities which are struggling to balance how they deal with the rubbish produced by high levels of consumption.

Former World Bank urban development specialist Dan Hoornweg predicts global waste production will have tripled by the end of this century without significant changes in our approach to waste management.

Based on these figures and the wider threat of global warming - of which waste production is a direct contributor - it is imperative for individuals and companies to act now and ensure their waste is properly managed with a minimal impact on the environment.

Fortunately, industries are becoming increasingly aware of these environmental issues. Numerous companies are now aiding the waste management process along with others who simply put eco-friendly measures in place to ensure their carbon footprint is either extremely low or negative.

Recycling consumer goods

In an effort to combat plastic waste, a project developed in Canada is allowing people to trade in their plastic trash for recycling purposes and receive useful goods and tools in return.

In addition, Plastic Bank - the company behind it - offer recyclers entrepreneurial incentives. Customers can access 3D printers and print their own goods using salvaged material and sell them back to their community.

As well as empowering smaller, disadvantaged communities, Plastic Bank also buy plastic materials from corporations to encourage big businesses to be more conscious of where and how they obtain their materials.

Salvaging construction materials

Figures from a 2015 government report show that since 2000/2001, incineration and landfill disposal of UK local authority waste (incl garden waste, beach cleansing waste, commercial or industrial waste, and waste resulting from the clearance of fly-tipped materials) fell by 42 percent, down to 14.2 million tonnes in 2013/2014.

Although these figures are a positive sign that the country's waste is being managed in a more efficient eco-friendly way, the UK's local authorities do not take care of the majority of construction waste. Construction waste accounted for 50% of the 200 million tonnes of waste generated in the UK in 2012.

Thanks to the innovative waste management techniques of the UK's private contractors however, much of this waste is being treated, recovered and reused.

By working in accordance with the Waste Resource Action Programme, waste collection specialists like OCS Environmental Services and Veolia claim to be increasing the use of recycled and secondary aggregates taken from construction and demolition projects.

Roof tiles, steel sections, structural timber, timber floors, masonry, concrete cladding panels, profiled metal cladding sheets, steel frame buildings and concrete arisings are all materials listed by OCS Environmental Services as recyclable construction waste.

Work such as this will help to improve on the UK's impressive 2012 86.5% construction waste recovery rate. This was already 16.5% higher than the EU's target for the UK to meet by 2020.

Reusing unwanted goods

The rate of UK household recycling was at 44.2 percent in 2013/2014, an increase from 43.7 percent in 2011, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

While it remains to be seen if the EU's recycling target for the UK of 50 percent can be met by 2020, there are companies that have established themselves through their unique focus on reusability over recycling on the premise that reuse is more environmentally friendly.

London-based Clearance Solutions outline the benefits of reuse as: saving energy that is used to manufacture products, providing quality goods at affordable prices, decreasing the demand for raw materials, reducing pollution and preventing items entering the waste stream. They take care to ensure any reusable items they clear are either sold or donated, rather than recycled.

The European Commission is planning to propose a new circular economy strategy by the end of 2015. This is a hopeful sign that we could be heading towards significant ‘green growth' which has benefits far beyond the environment.

If companies adopted more environmentally friendly ways of dealing with waste, we could see an overall increase in pioneering green manufacturing and groundbreaking technical progress in waste management that will attract investment and create jobs.

Sean Fitzsimons is the content editor at Go Up Ltd

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