As long ago as 2015, an Institute of Analytics whitepaper on the Internet of Things recognised that its architecture offered ‘the technologies for transformative business applications’. Yet although the uptake has been high in the energy and manufacturing sectors, Jian Yang’s Silicon Valley smart fridge is probably as close as most of us have come to seeing these technologies in our homes.
And it’s not hard to see why. The caricature of a fridge with irritating banter represents the comedic side of a real concern with the encroachment of technologies and companies into our homes. Yet with proper management and minimal interfaces, the IoT offers unparalleled opportunities for waste reduction, and for streamlining busy lives. Iot is the future, but offers real challenges around consumer confidence and identifying genuine need.
As Jason Mann, Director of Industry Product Management at SAS has said, ‘the essence of IoT resides in the source of the data, which are the sensors. Those smart devices generate data about activities, events, and influencing factors that provide visibility into performance and support decision processes across a variety of industries and consumer channels.’ When properly developed and deployed, these sensors assess use of consumer products, and offer supply and delivery solutions which eliminate waste and extraneous packaging. When it comes to combating the plastic epidemic, these technologies offer real solutions, but must be installed at the point of need, preferably without a chatty robot voice.
See the white paper here: https://www.sas.com/en_au/whitepapers/iia-internet-of-things-108110.html
Plastic pollution is suddenly in the public eye, with everyone from legislative bodies such as the EU (though recent delays are a concern), to David Attenborough highlighting the appalling scale of the problem.
Recyclable one-use packaging – whilst welcome – looks unlikely to be enough to stem the tide of waste. The reduction in plastic content of disposables can be easily matched or exceeded by an extended period of reuse, and by adopting smart-packaging built to be re-used.
Companies and consumers alike need to spearhead the widespread adoption, or re-adoption, of reusable packaging. Simply using the same package twenty times would reduce plastic waste by 95%.
This is not an entirely new idea. Most people over the age of thirty remember the widespread use of milk bottles, which subsequently disappeared. There are a number of reasons for this, but what has changed since the demise of the milkman, is the widespread use of personal delivery and the availability of connected platforms that can more effectively manage the process.
It’s time for the milk bottle to make a comeback.
The Guardian has learned that 1 million plastic bottles are bought and sold every minute around the world. This amounts to more than 1 and a half trillion bottles per year and is only due to increase unless drastic measures are taken.
Former yachtsman and global navigator, Helen MacArthur writes:
“Shifting to a real circular economy for plastics is a massive opportunity to close the loop, save billions of dollars, and decouple plastics production from fossil fuel consumption.”
Hugo Tagholm, of Surfers Against Sewerage adds:
“Current science shows that plastics cannot be usefully assimilated into the food chain. Where they are ingested they carry toxins that work their way on to our dinner plates.Whilst the production of throwaway plastics has grown dramatically over the last 20 years, the systems to contain, control, reuse and recycle them just haven’t kept pace.
We are confident that with the use of smart packaging and the changes in home-delivery culture, that the amount of plastic bottles used by the general public can be reduced significantly and that MacArthur’s and Tagholm’s goals can be met.
The former CEO of ASDA has expressed the bald reality that ‘all plastic packaging will reach landfill or the bottom of the ocean sooner or later’, and urged supermarkets to stop using plastic packaging. This is a welcome clarion call, but with sources indicating that ‘annual consumption of plastic bottles alone is set to top half a trillion by 2021, far outstripping recycling efforts’, a gear change is needed. The model of one-use packaging is not sustainable, and needs to be replaced by smart refillable alternatives, without loss of ease for the consumer. This is a huge challenge, but with advances in logistics and the increasing interconnectivity offered by the Internet of Things, there has never been a better time to challenge the one-use-package paradigm.