Turning trash to gold : global waste market to double


A landfill signAccording to a leading American bank, the global waste industry could double to $2 trillion by 2020. This is due to as Business Green notes to ” the combination of urbanisation, looming resource shortages and environmental regulation “

This takes into account municipal and industrial waste management, recycling, waste-to-energy and sustainable packaging. Europe is seen as facing the “toughest strategic challenges ” while Asia and Latin America see the fastest growth.

Opportunities are due to abound in waste management, waste to energy (WtE), wastewater and sewage and recycling among others.

As the Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts found out, only 25 percent of the 11 billion tons of trash produced each year are recycled or just recovered.

Yep, that’s right : globally, 75 percent of trash goes to the ever growing landfills. Given how much there is recoverable and interesting resources there, no wonder we will have to mine landfills.

As Cleantech IQ noted :

In the U.S. alone, the BoAML analysts estimate the waste management market is worth $1 trillion today, which includes municipal solid waste, industrial waste, waste-to-energy and sustainable packaging.

Reuters’ Global Investing page provides additional details :

(Analysts at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch) have compiled a list of more than 80 companies which may benefit most from the push for recycling waste, generating energy from biomass and building facilities to process or reduce waste. It’s an industry that is likely to grow exponentially as incomes rise, especially in emerging economies.

(…) By 2050, the earth’s population will reach 9 billion, while global per capita GDP is projected to quadruple. So waste production will double by 2025 and again from 2025 to 2050, United Nations agencies estimate.

And in emerging markets, challenges and opportunities are both enormous, BofA/ML says. Just Brazil for instance needs investments of $180 billion in this sector. For one, recycling is less widespread. Second, as countries grow richer they produce more rubbish. Third, all big emerging countries have multi-billion dollar plans to improve waste disposal.

(…) Lets look at some of the opportunities BofA/ML has identified:

– Disposal and recycling of municipal solid waste (rubbish, in common parlance) is currently worth $400 billion but over the next decade,  $87 billion in investments are expected in this sector.

– Waste-to-energy (energy recovery from waste): One ton of rubbish can create 500-750 kilowatts of power. This market is worth $7.4 billion in 2013 and  could grow to $81 billion by 2022.

– Sustainable packaging: Accounts for a third of solid waste in developed countries. Worth almost $109 billion in 2011, the market is expected to grow to $178-212 billion by 2015-18.

– e-waste (discarded electrical or electronic devices):  Recycling/reuse of e-waste components was worth $13.9 billion in 2012 but could grow to between $25 and 44.3 billion by 2017-20. One example of how lucrative this can be – -recycling one million mobile phones can recover 24 kg of gold, 250 kg of silver and more than 9,000 kg of copper.

Wastewater and sewage treatment:  The biggest investments are needed in the developing world but in the United States alone, infrastructure of $1 trillion could be needed over the next 25 years, BofA says, citing research from the American Waterworks Association.

For more details, please check out Environmental Expert and Waste to Energy International

Nota : Despite having looked at many websites writing about this report and googling it for a long time, I haven’t been able to locate the original source. This is to me a pity as I try to always put the original source. If you know where it is exactly, please tell me in the comments.

Image credit : Flickr.

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