Editor's Pick

Predicting the future of AI in sustainability

We ask experts from the waste management industry to talk us through AI predictions in sustainability, from smart cities to lab-grown meat.

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In 2024, the artificial intelligence industry is set to grow by 33%. While much of this is driven by content, from Chat GPT penning scripts to Dream Studio conjuring up imagined images, machine learning and algorithms are also powering the future of environmental strategy, net zero infrastructure, climate change mitigation, waste management and other green needs. 

At Environment Journal we have previously looked at the myriad applications for AI in sustainable sectors. Recently these have included itemised electricity billing, modelling for extreme weather events, and rewilding projects in North Yorkshire. But what comes next?

The technology itself developing at an overwhelming pace, and broader use cases are being presented all the time. With this in mind, we looked to experts at recycling and refuse management specialist to share some insights on how AI is set to revolutionise sustainable action in the very near future. Let’s take a closer look. 

Green Hydrogen Economy

The development and adoption of green hydrogen offers a clean energy source. Produced using renewable energy to split water, green hydrogen can be a game-changer for industries that are difficult to electrify, such as heavy manufacturing, shipping, and aviation. It offers a clean alternative to fossil fuels and can be stored and transported as needed.

Urban Farming and Vertical Agriculture

This trend focuses on growing food within urban environments using innovative methods like vertical farming, which stacks crops in layers, and rooftop gardens. Vertical farming can produce up to 350 times more vegetables than conventional farming using the same size area of land.

It brings food production closer to consumers, reducing transportation emissions. This also promotes food security in urban areas and can utilise otherwise wasted spaces in cities.

Lab-grown and Plant-based Meats

Lab-grown meat is produced by culturing animal cells in a controlled environment. Plant-based meats are made from ingredients like soy or peas to mimic the taste and texture of animal meat.

These technologies offer sustainable meat alternatives by significantly reducing the land, water, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with traditional livestock farming.

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Biodegradable Materials Revolution

Developing new materials that can naturally decompose without harming the environment is a good option for replacing conventional plastic. The global biodegradable plastics market size is projected to grow from £3.6 billion in 2020 to £10.2 billion by 2027. This could drastically reduce plastic waste and pollution, particularly in oceans and natural habitats.

Smart Cities with AI and IoT

Integrating advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) into city infrastructure would optimise the use of resources, traffic, and energy consumption.

AI and IoT will enhance urban living through improved efficiency as well as reduced environmental impact and improve people’s quality of life.

Image: Jason Leung


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