According to The World Counts Report, humans collectively produce more than 2 billion tons of waste each year! Worldwide garbage is accumulating, and while most of it can be utilized for good, it is simply getting dumped in landfills. With a few exceptions, garbage isn’t a part of the cyclical economy in most countries. In the majority of places, significant use of garbage only involves filling ground holes, or for burning. Therefore, it is no surprise that the global garbage industry is craving for technological and operational innovation. Until recently, little effort has been put into optimizing the garbage lifecycle, primarily because this is one of the industries where monetization is not very straightforward. However, since the advent of blockchain, hopes for better garbage management have been rejuvenated.
With novel utilisation, it seems that blockchain technology can really pave the way for a sustainable future. It has been observed that the garbage industry can witness the use of blockchain in multiple facets. Like many industries, efficient garbage management requires strict monitoring of the garbage lifecycle. Violations of protocol are possible in multiple stops within the garbage supply chain. Since blockchain can be used to audit a supply chain and prevent intermediaries from tampering data, this is one aspect where the garbage industry awaits disruption. This will also allow law enforcement to trace back the trash they find at unwanted places – i.e., any place that is not a dumping yard or a dustbin, e.g, streets, subway stations and so on. Since blockchain will allow the production of goods at each level to be recorded, a unique identity will be given to each product. When these products are sold, resold and circulated in the market, they also carry their identity and history. When a product is disposed, a new transaction is recorded in the blockchain, signalling the disposal. Now, if any product is found disposed on a street or station, it’s history can be easily traced. The disposed item can be identified with a QR-code-like technology. However, this identification aspect is still not completely reliable – a product may not be identified at all if it is partially destroyed. Thus, developers are still working to provide robust identification. Another facet within the global garbage management industry where blockchain might potentially be used, is that of garbage classification and sorting. Surprisingly, this simple act of sorting waste among different categories greatly catalysis the further garbage treatment process. Among other benefits, proper classification can result in less water and air pollution. That also means a cleaner environment for towns and cities that surround a garbage treatment plant. Now, blockchain itself will not perform garbage sorting. This is more of a manual work, so real humans are required for garbage classification and sorting. Having said that, it should be noted that there have been some recent advancements in artificial intelligence that may allow automated sorting. In fact, people have built small prototypes that sort garbage automatically with machine learning. But using such models in production is still under development, and waiting for their deployment isn’t the most feasible solution the industry has at hand. Instead, the use of blockchain here will incentivise citizens to dispose different waste in their respective bin. Essentially, the blockchain will reward cryptocurrencies to citizens for sorting their waste in the right bins. People can use this cryptocurrency for, say various schemes – like shopping discounts, electricity bill discounts and so on. They can also convert this cryptocurrency to their country’s currency. There are already some startups that are working on this incentivising part. One firm, called Recereum, seems the most promising so far, because of the comprehensive hitherto roadmap designed by its team.
As stated on its official website, Recereum “is blockchain-based platform for turning waste and recyclables to real value.” The crypto coins that are given to people for sorting waste will not only pay their bills, but they will also give people a sense of achievement in contributing towards saving the planet. Recereum is also planning to support few direct-exchange incentives. It is planning to allow citizens to exchange plastic and aluminum bottles in vending machines for the exchange of Recereum coins directly transferred to their phones. People will also be able to exchange old batteries, electronics and other things unnecessary for them at other special dispose points. Again, they will earn Recereum coins in exchange for these items. Thus, Recereum is providing a sort of win-win situation, where people earn money by sorting their waste, and the environment gets cleaner on the other side.
With tools like Recereum, once a nation is able to treat its garbage efficiently, it can start importing waste from other countries and treat it effectively, thereby increasing its GDP in the long run (yes, countries pay to other countries to take their waste). This is yet another example which demonstrates that blockchain has far-reaching benefits, even for entire nation-states, if implemented in the right way.
Saurabh Chaturvedi is a freelance developer and technical writer with a keen interest in blockchain, Bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies.
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