Closing loops: Recycling strategies to save the planet in 2024

From micro-organisms that eat plastic, to nanotechnology, advanced sorting systems and closed loop networks, Skips & Bins runs through new circular approaches for 2024. 

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The climate crisis is becoming even more of a talking point among businesses and consumers, with recent data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showing that around 64% of adults in Great Britain have been worried about how climate change is impacting the planet. One element causing concern is reducing the amount of waste that ends up in 240L wheelie bins and improving recycling processes.

The UK government has even pledged to reach zero avoidable waste by 2050, ridding the country of avoidable plastic waste by 2042 as a key date on the roadmap. Reaching these targets may require some innovation in how recycling strategies are built, and we’ll look to explore five of the most innovative in this article.

Plastic-eating enzymes

Could microbiology be the key to recycling? That’s what scientists are looking to capitalise on by developing enzymes that can break down and consume plastic. It’s estimated that proper investment and development could reduce landfill waste that was once considered non-recyclable by billions of tonnes. These enzymes were first developed by a team at the Kyoto Institute of Technology and come from naturally occurring microorganisms designed to break down plastics so they can be used in new, high-quality materials. Not only is this recycling but upcycling simultaneously.

Biodegradable plastics

Making plastics that have biodegradable properties is in the interest of closing the recycling loop to avoid further damage to the environment. These plastics, like other biodegradable materials such as fruit cores and skins, are made to break down into a harmless substance that won’t cause long-lasting impacts. This would mean less litter cluttering and destroying natural environments, but it also promotes a circular economy, making them a viable packaging option.

Advanced sorting technologies

Recycling centres must separate many different materials, which can become difficult when streams are mixed. This is where artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics could be technological innovations that would significantly reduce these issues. Programming this tech to work in tandem and precisely identify and separate the materials takes out the risk of human error, as well as frees up workers to be trained or monitor other priority areas of the business.

Closed loop systems

One of the biggest changes that will need to be seen in the world of recycling and waste management is getting rid of the traditional linear waste systems where created products are discarded once used, contributing to landfills. This is where a closed loop system is created, and recycling is centred so that the materials can be used multiple times. This results in less waste and a significant reduction in raw materials required to make new products.


Nanotechnology is another exciting solution that could be used for recycling plastics, as these technologies are designed to be as small as possible to deal with complex materials. Nanomaterials can enhance the recyclability of polymers that are traditionally difficult to recycle by detecting and targeting pollutants. Plus, nanotech offers a scalable solution so challenging materials can be addressed no matter their size.

These innovations and progressive technologies offer a lot of excitement and security for recycling, especially with the rising concerns around how waste is affecting our environment. With the pressure that the government is facing to reach the targets set, there’s a strong likelihood we’ll see even more investment in the development of this tech in the hopes of pushing towards the obsoletion of waste.

More on recycling and circular economics: 

Circular technology: What’s in store for 2024?

Waste export ban supported by majority of British public

£2.8bn of paper and cardboard will be waste by 2030

Image: Gus Moretta


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