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We all know waste is a huge problem, but it is often hidden; we produce rubbish – a huge amount, with the average UK household producing over a tonne per annum – it is taken away, our city streets are relatively clean and the problem is pushed out of sight and out of mind. Look a little further however, and you will find an endless list of environmental problems locally and globally created by this waste.
This is not only affecting flora and fauna, but us as well. We do not yet know the effects of ingesting micro-plastics, but we know the health effects of living near one of the 20,000 former landfill sites in the UK (BBC, 2017). Researchers have found a strong association between deaths caused by lung cancer and deaths and hospitalisations from respiratory diseases, especially in children, and living within 5km of a landfill site.
Recycling is merely a palliative solution; we need to completely re-think what rubbish is, of course eliminating it where possible, but also beginning to think of it as something that has inherent value. Rubbish is a resource and can be used for a number of things: to produce energy, build roads and houses, heat homes and fire cement kilns, to name but a few.
By 2025, the World Bank calculates that we will be producing more than 6m tonnes of waste per day, double the amount produced in 2010, with the cost of dealing with that waste reaching $375bn.
Those statistics point to two things: a serious environmental and public health problem that requires a solution as soon as possible, and a huge area of potential for businesses with expertise in the sector – and, consequently, for investors.
We are already seeing a paradigm shift from linear to circular economies, and a growing focus on waste-to-energy. From Belgrade to Beijing, Addis Ababa to Atlanta, we are seeing the development of waste-to-energy plants and initiatives as a means of solving the waste crisis, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and our carbon footprints.
Companies are following suit too, for example, British Airways have formed a partnership to produce jet fuel from household waste and are seeking to fuel a number of their Boeing 787 Dreamliners solely through this fuel source.
Ultimately and hopefully as the Danish economist, Ester Boserup, famously noted “necessity is the mother of invention” (1965), and we have now reached a tipping point where we will come together with a global consensus and begin to solve this crisis using innovative solutions and technology.
Amio Wealth specialise in ethical investments, with our flagship renewable energy project in this particular sector producing renewable energy fuels from waste in the UK.