Digital technology will play a key role in addressing these challenges:
Business model and product innovation: Technology is at the forefront of enabling consumer behavior change via new business model and product innovation. Technology-enabled business models like AirBnB and Uber have expanded the sharing economy, which promises to reduce material consumption and waste. Smart refrigerators, equipped with cameras accessible via smartphone apps, allow consumers/users to check their contents while shopping – this promises to reduce food waste. Smart buildings and offices help users understand their energy consumption relative to their peers. As the cost of such technology declines, it will be more available to lower income populations.
Precision recycling: Technological development, like the application of AI enabled robots, is needed to ensure that all products, including those with nanoscale materials, can be recovered and reused or recycled. Automated sorting and robotic capabilities such as metal detection, weight measurement, 3D scanning and spectrometer analysis can enable more sophisticated and precise waste sorting.
Materials tracking systems: Blockchain, data analytics and tracking systems like RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips will be integral to efficient systems and reducing consumption. Improved materials tracking can optimize planning by processing user data constraints spatially and temporally and allow efficiency at the planning stages of construction and product development. Sensors and smart software can track materials through the disposal stages and limit illegal disposal of hazardous materials and waste. Big data analytics will be essential to ensuring materials efficiencies and designing for recyclability by aggregating information on how materials are processed throughout their lifecycle.Read More