How IoT Innovations Are Curbing Plastic Pollution

picture of ocean and clouds and how IoT is reducing plastic pollution

Earth Day is right around the corner. This year’s theme, Planet vs. Plastics, calls to advocate the widespread awareness on the human and planetary health risk of plastic pollution. Single-use plastics specifically, such as packaging materials, bottles, and straws, have become a significant threat to our ecosystems.

Fortunately, the Internet of Things has emerged as a powerful tool in mitigating this problem. By leveraging the capabilities of IoT, we can significantly reduce plastic production and waste, enhancing sustainability efforts. Here are some remarkable ways in which IoT is helping to combat plastic pollution.

Smart Waste Management

Traditional waste management systems have been inefficient, leading to excess plastic waste ending up in landfills and oceans. IoT has revolutionized waste management by enabling the development of smart waste bins. These bins are equipped with sensors that can detect the fill-level in real-time. When a bin reaches its capacity, it triggers an alert to waste management authorities, allowing them to schedule pickups efficiently. As a result, this prevents overflow and reduces the chances of plastic waste spreading into surrounding areas or water sources.

Additionally, IoT can improve recycling optimization by addressing the lack of awareness and adherence to proper plastic disposal practices. Smart recycling bins equipped with sensors can detect and sort different types of recyclable materials automatically. IoT devices can also provide real-time data on recycling rates and performance, enabling municipalities to monitor and optimize their recycling programs. By making recycling more convenient and efficient, IoT helps maximize plastic waste diversion from landfills and promotes a circular economy.

Optimized Supply Chains

IoT has made significant advancements in optimizing supply chains, enabling industries to reduce plastic production and pollution. By implementing connected sensors and devices throughout the production process, manufacturers gain access to real-time data about inventory levels, consumption patterns, and customer demand. This information helps them make informed decisions about production volumes, reducing the likelihood of overproduction and unnecessary plastic usage.

IoT technology also enables the development of smart packaging solutions that can monitor factors such as temperature, humidity, and freshness. In industries like food and pharmaceuticals, these smart packages help prevent spoilage and ensure optimal conditions during transportation and storage. By maintaining the quality and shelf life of products, consumers are less likely to discard them prematurely due to spoilage. This decreases plastic waste created from excessive packaging and reduces the need for additional plastic production to replace wasted goods.

Deplastifying Oceans

If done at scale, using IoT to deplastify oceans can have a major impact on reducing (and maybe one day eliminating) plastic pollution in our oceans and natural waterways. Thankfully, this scale is increasing worldwide with a number of countries and organizations using plastic extraction technologies in highly polluted rivers and oceans.

The Ocean Cleanup has a goal to clean up the five most prominent garbage patches in the ocean, areas where litter, fishing gear, and marine debris collect. This non-profit organization uses computational models to predict where hotspots are, target specific areas to guide the plastic into a retention zone, and extract it.

Ecuador-based Ichthion Technology developed plastic interception barriers at rivers that use IoT to deplastify oceans from microplastics. They are equipped with cameras to take pictures of the waste extracted. Algorithms identify the plastic by type, helping authorities develop strategies to reduce incoming waste from its source upstream.

These are just a few of many examples showing that utilizing IoT to deplastify our oceans and waterways can be an effective end-game solution.

The Internet of Things is a powerful and influential tool to combat plastic pollution and promote sustainability. By implementing IoT solutions in waste management, supply chains, and packaging, as well as utilizing it to encourage behavioral change among consumers, we can significantly reduce plastic production.

The ability of IoT to provide real-time data and optimize processes offers immense potential for a more sustainable and plastic-free future. Governments, industries, and individuals must seize these opportunities and collaborate to achieve this goal. The time to act is now to sustain human and planetary health and protect our environment for future generations.


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