While it’s true that trash is as old as mankind itself, it’s also true that the only constant is change. The past two years have continued to show that the waste and recycling business is an ever-evolving industry.

Of course, the big news was the closing of Waste Management’s acquisition of Advanced Disposal in late 2020. An enormous deal for Waste Management, it also set off a wave of other asset sales, and thus more change.

Similarly, we saw GFL continue to drive its expansion. Part of that was absorbing some of those Advanced Disposal assets. GFL certainly has stormed onto the stage to become a major player in North America’s waste and recycling landscape.

In New England we witnessed the creation of WIN Waste. In the Midwest, Lakeshore Recycling Systems became LRS and continued its spree of acquisitions. In addition to these moves, Waste Today reported on many other acquisitions and startups throughout 2021.

Certainly, the formation of new companies and the expanding footprint of existing companies are part of this marketplace. But the industry has continued to change in other meaningful ways.

Collection has become ever-more automated, reducing risk to those on the frontlines, helping to make the industry safer and more productive. Collection trucks have become like rolling computer networks, gathering loads of data as they collect loads of trash and recyclables.

These data increasingly are being used to streamline collection operations and ensure seamless service to communities and businesses across the country. Companies continue to explore how they can mine this information for meaningful insights that are sure to shape the industry over the years to come.

Recycling operations also have become more automated as optical sorters carry an increasing workload in the sorting of recyclables.

Robotics have been introduced to systems as well, and we’re seeing artificial intelligence increasingly coupled with more traditional sorting technology to streamline operations and increase recovery and material quality.

The markets for recyclables also have changed dramatically. Not only has the average revenue per ton increased, but the market movement has been consistent. Many feared that when China stepped away as a consuming market there would be a glut of material in the U.S. That has not happened; in fact, it’s been quite the opposite.

The industry will continue to change in the years ahead. Electric collection trucks are being tested, waste-to-fuel technologies are continuing to be developed and myriad other factors are at play, getting ready to change the industry still more.

Waste Today will continue to cover these developments and examine the impact they have on the daily work of owners, managers and operators across the industry. If you see a trend or development you believe we should be reporting on, please reach out to us at rt-editors@gie.net.

Here’s to a successful 2022!