Digitalization a boost for recycling and circular economy
Recycling resources are not just sustainable – secondary raw materials are often also cheaper than primary raw materials. Digitalization should help exploit untapped potential.15 Jan 2018 Kai Tubessing
The German Association for Secondary Raw Materials and Waste Management (bvse) sees the digital transformation as an opportunity on the path to an extensive, sustainable circular economy. Despite Germany’s pioneering role in recycling and environmental technology, Dr. Henning Wilts, Head of the Circular Economy Research Unit at Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie gGmbH, believes countries like France and The Netherlands are currently more progressive when it comes to modernizing their material and information flows.
According to the analysis, one of the problems currently faced is that although recycled raw materials are up to 20% cheaper than primary materials, there is no effective information and distribution channel for industrial recycling. Wilts is therefore pushing for Industry 4.0 structures in the waste management industry: This sector also requires an information and data management system based on networked communication. This would not just enable issues pertaining to origin, recycling methods, volumes, location, and the specific composition of, for example, plastics, to be addressed more quickly, but would also enable them to be passed on to potential industrial recyclers. The objective is to create an efficient, resource and cost-effective recycling economy that could work to the advantage of all involved. This is where the Wuppertal Institute comes in, which wants to bring together future recyclers, the logistics sector, and prospective customers.
The underlying problem affects Germany because the national waste management and recycling industry here is in particular characterized by SMEs. And it is these companies that are lagging behind on the path to digitalization – according to a study conducted by management consultancy Vivaldi , this is particularly true for digital interfaces to customers.
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