Rethinking Waste Through Technology in a Circular Economy

By Felix Faulhaber, Vice President, Business Intelligence & Supply Chain, Rubicon Global

imageWith the planet facing a resource crunch, our consumption-hungry culture is quickly becoming unsustainable. The linear “make, use, dispose” economy depends on vast amounts of resources — and creates huge amounts of waste. According to “Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage,” 80 percent of goods in the U.S. are thrown away within their first six months of life.

An alternative that’s gaining traction is the circular economy, which aims to weed out waste through a regenerative industrial system. In a circular economy, waste doesn’t exist – all products and materials serve a purpose within the system for as long as possible.

The circular economy’s success rests on four basic building blocks:

  • A cradle-to-cradle view of materials that promotes a waste-free, efficient system
  • An understanding of industrial ecology and how to deploy waste as a resource
  • A commitment to including diverse players from across the market
  • Systems thinking and leveraging technology and data to find solutions

For the model to work, manufacturers, service providers, product users and collectors all have to be on the same page. Adapting to this mindset will require many industries to change, including the waste industry itself.

Viewing waste in a new way

Traditional waste management providers also own landfills and hauling assets, creating incentives for them to break the regenerative cycle and pile landfills high with trash. Waste and recycling provider Rubicon Global is disrupting the industry, however, through a new asset-light, technology-driven model that benefits businesses and the environment.

Rubicon’s proprietary technology platform helps to facilitate a circular economy by connecting haulers and customers in a new way.  Businesses can use Rubicon’s technology to request waste pickups when needed, instead of on a fixed schedule, eliminating unnecessary transportation costs and fuel consumption. Haulers bring the material they collect to processors instead of landfills, and Rubicon’s cloud-based auction site enables businesses to bid on the collected materials. By sending less trash to landfills and selling their waste for recycling or reuse, Rubicon’s customers boost their bottom lines while also doing good for the planet.

The power of technology

Gaining insight into sustainability initiatives is key for businesses that want to create successful circular economies. Rubicon provides customers with detailed pickup data so they can track their progress against diversion targets and manage high- and low-performing materials. Companies can also use data to optimize diversion efforts and the frequency of trash removal, resulting in financial and environmental benefits.

As resources grow more precious, our old industrial system just doesn’t work anymore. By enabling businesses to turn their trash into someone else’s treasure, Rubicon is working to create a more sustainable circular economy.

Rubicon Global has been a longtime supporter of Wharton IGEL and is an active member of its corporate advisory board. Rubicon Global has partnered with Wharton IGEL on two reports that were issued in Knowledge@Wharton; Disrupting the World’s Oldest Industry was issued in March 2014, and more recently The Sharing Economy: Restacking Industry in the 21st Century was issued in December 2015.  

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2 responses to “Rethinking Waste Through Technology in a Circular Economy

  1. I like what you are doing here Felix – great out of the box thinking. The sooner we become less of a throw away society the better

  2. Great comments and spot on with the needed direction for the future , however , as you claim in your paper, ” Waste and recycling provider Rubicon Global ” being an information technology provider for the industry , as Rubicon is, is not the same as being the true waste and recycling provider where the specific disruptive closed loop initiatives need to be made and a much more difficult hurdle to achieve and monetize successfully.

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