Five Ways Digitisation Can Reduce Global Waste
Five Ways Digitisation Can Reduce Global Waste
It’s imperative that we find ways to reduce global waste. Find out how digital transformation can help save the planet.
Technology is advancing rapidly. It’s a juxtaposition: Nature and machine. For many, the idea of Artificial Intelligence and the further progression of technology will see the destruction of man. We imagine barren scopes, a dystopia of the later Matrix films, perhaps driven by our fear of acting god. The late Stephen Hawking warned us that ‘robots will upgrade faster than we can evolve’. Our journey into digitalisation however, has some promising and very real benefits.
Though a canvas for artistry, mathematics and literature. Paper has a dark side to its shiny white exterior.
“Paper accounts for 25 percent of waste in the landfill and 33 percent of municipal waste. About 68 million trees are cut down each year to produce paper and paper products.”
This list summarises the effects of the paper industry.
- 40% of the world’s commercially cut timber is used for the production of paper.
- Pulpwood plantations and mills endanger natural habitats.
- Over 30 million acres of forest are destroyed annually.
- Paper production uses up lots of water. An A4 paper requires 10 litres of water per sheet.
- Most of the materials in landfills are made of paper. When paper rots, it emits methane, a greenhouse gas. When it is burned or composted, carbon dioxide.
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Take a deep breath. That was a lot to manage. Luckily, technology is now providing us with alternatives.
As a former teacher I would stand awkwardly next to a printer, looking forlorn as the machine with compassionless automation turned out a perfect stack of 90 pages. That’s 3 pages per student for their handouts.
Elsewhere, commuters mindlessly pick up a newspaper, shoving them down any bin that would accommodate them.
Going digital. In schools they are starting to bring in Kindles, tablets, the like. Though the traditionalist in us bemoans, there is the hope that by digitalising how we interact with information, we can cut down on paper wastage. A single Kindle has the memory to store 1,100 books. When we talk about ‘the sharing economy’ – that’s a big thumbs up. Fewer materials, better results.
Digital transformation is required more dramatically with our interaction with news. Though the traditional form of sitting on the tube with a Metro is still very real, more people are turning to the internet for their source of information. In fact, this article is the result of digitisation.
Digitalisation in Communication
Despite the romantic gesture of a telegram to a distant lover, digitalisation has seriously mitigated the global footprint of communication (though talking takes this one.) Take mail for example. Letters, packaging, transport. Or, we could just send an email. Although physical letters still have their place, the average volume of letters is 13billion per year, compared to a whopping 215 billion emails sent EVERY DAY. It’s clear to see how digitisation is helping global waste. Faster. More efficient. Less environmental impact.
I had a look quickly in the local supermarket waste bin placed by the front entrance. It was head to toe with receipts. Useless forgotten items. Printed to perfection and buried in a crypt of moulding apples. Thankfully, many stores are now turning to emailed receipts instead of printed ones.
Online Bank Statements
Not long ago, and for some still, a big monthly wodge of paper would arrive at the door in the form of a bank statement. Since the arrival of banking apps, this has been reduced choosing to prioritise a digital method of account keeping and statements.
Contactless Train Passes
Instead of carrying a pocketful of the week’s scrunched up tickets, contactless cards and mobile payments have meant that we can skip the extra resources used in creating the ticket and have a modern digitised alternative. It’s now possible on many buses and trains to tap your card against the reader and proceed as normal, good for the environment and for those busy London queues.
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development(WBCSD) and the Global Footprint Network estimate that we have far exceeded the Earth’s capacity to sustain our current levels of consumption and that in the very short term we are on track to consume the equivalent of more than twice what our planet can regenerate; the United States is consuming up to five times that level.
Digitisation is the path forward. The changing scope of analogue to digital leaves a lot to be excited for. Despite often being cited as the causation of the end of the world, Digitisation could become a vital ally in sustaining it.