Waste upcycling could go global in just four years

Upcycling technologies could be adopted for waste materials on a mass scale globally by 2018 with intense activity in this sector already being experienced in North America and Europe.

According to new research from Frost and Sullivan, certain government bodies are already leading the charge such as the US Environmental Protection Agency and the European Commission.

In addition Asian countries have started to embrace this technology and it is expected they will catch up with the US and Europe by 2018.

Within the US and Europe heavy funding and several incentives are already in place for companies to explore and capitalise upon these opportunities.

Waste upcycling could have various applications across industry including chemicals, metals, food processing, textile, paper and pulp, sugar, leather, glass, petrochemicals and polymers.

Currently the most number of patents for these processes are filed in China and USA followed by Japan. If this is backed up by adequate funding and support it could help to scale up implementation on a commercial scale.

Upcycling has already been embraced by several leading manufacturers and waste service providers including Terracycle, O2 and Patagonia.

Indeed Patagonia has taken it one step further and is now using it as a lever to reduce its manufacturing waste. In July it announced that it had embarked on an ambitious remanufacturing programme to continuously recycle its flip-flops, with the potential to reduce production waste by nearly a third.

Upcycling has also found favour with the circular economy movement where it is is viewed as a better option than recycling as it centres more around material optimisation and less around product disassembly.

Maxine Perella

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