Scientists develop enzyme capable of breaking down plastic waste in record time

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Researchers from the University of Portsmouth recently published their work on an re-engineered, plastic-eating enzyme capable of digesting plastic six times faster than previous attempts.  The work, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, describes how they created an enzyme cocktail from waste-dwelling bacterium that derive their energy from digesting plastic bottles.

Previous Discovery

The cocktail consists of two separate enzymes from bacteria found in trash.  The first enzyme, PETase had already been discovered.  PETase breaks down polyethylene terephthalate (PET) back into its building blocks, creating an opportunity to recycle plastic infinitely and reduce plastic pollution and the greenhouse gases driving climate change.

PET is the most common thermoplastic, used to make single-use drinks bottles, clothing and carpets and it takes hundreds of years to break down in the environment, but PETase can shorten this time to days.

The initial discovery set up the prospect of a revolution in plastic recycling, creating a potential low-energy solution to tackle plastic waste. The team engineered the natural PETase enzyme in the laboratory to be around 20 percent faster at breaking down PET.

Latest Discovery

Now, the same trans-Atlantic team have combined PETase and its ‘partner’, a second enzyme called MHETase, to generate much bigger improvements: simply mixing PETase with MHETase doubled the speed of PET breakdown, and engineering a connection between the two enzymes to create a ‘super-enzyme’, increased this activity by a further three times.

The team was co-led by the scientists who engineered PETase, Professor John McGeehan, Director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) at the University of Portsmouth, and Dr Gregg Beckham, Senior Research Fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the US.

PETase and the new combined MHETase-PETase both work by digesting PET plastic, returning it to its original building blocks. This allows for plastics to be made and reused endlessly, reducing our reliance on fossil resources such as oil and gas.

 

Zero Waste High-Rise Project Starts in Toronto

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The Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) has been working with high-rise buildings to reduce waste, increase recycling, and increase composting. Buildings have cut their waste, created stronger communities, improved their buildings, and saved money.

TEA has studied how leading buildings achieved their results and helped other buildings learn from their success. Now, TEA want to share what we’ve learned with high-rise residents and staff, to help more Toronto high-rises become zero-waste buildings.

The Zero Waste High-Rise Project was launched and consists of a new step-by-step online program that will allow residents or staff to start the process of reducing waste in their building.

Participants can move through the pathway at their own pace: 

  • Complete forms to assess how well your building is doing, identify opportunities to take action.
  • Access resources and tips from TEA on actions you can take.
  • Participate in virtual events and meetings to learn from other high-rise leaders across the city.

There are 4 stages in the Zero Waste High Rise Project pathway:

  1. Stage 1 – Introduction
  2. Stage 2 – Finding Opportunities
  3. Stage 3 – Planning and Taking Action
  4. Stage 4 – Measuring & Celebrating Change

Each stage is paired with forms and activities, success stories, resources and virtual peer-learning events to help you succeed at each stage in the process.

Who can get involved? 

Anyone who lives or works in a high-rise building and wants to learn more is welcome to sign up! You’ll receive resources and invitations to online events.

In September, up to 10 condos and co-op buildings were selected to receive enhanced support, including facilitated meetings and coaching from TEA staff and our research partners.

What is the cost?

This project is no cost for users and is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Government of Ontario. The project also receives research support from researchers at the University of Toronto and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Here are 2 ways to get started: 

1. Sign up for the online program with your name and email address. Sign up here

2. Register for an upcoming information session. Find a list of upcoming sessions here

This project is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Government of Ontario, and receives research support from the University of Toronto, with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

 

Industry 4.0 and the Circular Economy: Towards a Wasteless Future or a Wasteful Planet?

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Industry 4.0 and Circular Economy: Towards a Wasteless Future or a Wasteful Planet?
Written by Antonis Mavropoulos and Anders Waage Nilsen
Publishing September 2020

HOW THE MARRIAGE OF INDUSTRY 4.0 AND THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY CAN RADICALLY TRANSFORM WASTE MANAGEMENT—AND OUR WORLD

Do we really have to make a choice between a wasteless and nonproductive world or a wasteful and ultimately self-destructive one? Futurist and world-renowned waste management scientist Antonis Mavropoulos and sustainable business developer and digital strategist Anders Waage Nilsen respond with a ringing and optimistic “No!” They explore the Earth-changing potential of a happy (and wasteless) marriage between Industry 4.0 and a Circular Economy that could—with properly reshaped waste management practices—deliver transformative environmental, health, and societal benefits. This book is about the possibility of a brand-new world and the challenges to achieve it.

The fourth industrial revolution has given us innovations including robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D-printing, and biotech. By using these technologies to advance the Circular Economy—where industry produces more durable materials and runs on its own byproducts—the waste management industry will become a central element of a more sustainable world and can ensure its own, but well beyond business as usual, future. Mavropoulos and Nilsen look at how this can be achieved—a wasteless world will require more waste management—and examine obstacles and opportunities such as demographics, urbanization, global warming, and the environmental strain caused by the rise of the global middle class.

  • Explore the new prevention, reduction, and elimination methods transforming waste management
  • Comprehend and capitalize on the business implications for the sector
  • Understand the theory via practical examples and case studies
  • Appreciate the social benefits of the new approach

Waste-management has always been vital for the protection of health and the environment. Now it can become a crucial role model in showing how Industry 4.0 and the Circular Economy can converge to ensure flourishing, sustainable—and much brighter—future.

Source: Wiley Publishers

U.S.: Expansion of a New Mapping Tool For Managing Debris

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recently announced the nationwide expansion of an interactive dataset that maps recyclers and landfills for the planning, response, and recovery of debris. This debris recovery tool has already proven valuable in training exercises and response activity to natural disasters.

“EPA is prepared to help communities more rapidly recover from natural disasters,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “EPA’s debris recovery tool will assist federal, state, local and tribal emergency personnel to quickly identify recycling, composting, and disposal facilities near affected areas that may be able to accept disaster debris.”

The expansion of the recovery tool was supported by the E-Enterprise Initiative that emphasizes collaboration and data sharing among EPA, states, and tribes. The recovery tool advances EPA’s goals of recycling and material recovery following natural disasters, such as hurricanes, and is one of several resources mentioned in EPA’s Planning for Natural Disaster Debris Guidance.

The recovery tool can also assist with debris management planning by identifying potential facilities before a disaster occurs, which can help communities recover faster. Better management of debris may reduce injuries, minimize or prevent the environmental impacts of mismanaged wastes and ultimately support compliance with environmental regulations.

Early adoption of the interactive tool in EPA’s Region 5 office has already led to successful disaster debris management planning for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and tornado response by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information on EPA’s debris recovery tool, visit https://www.epa.gov/debris-recovery-map.

For more information on EPA’s Planning for Natural Disaster Debris guide and managing materials and wastes for homeland security incidents, visit: https://www.epa.gov/homeland-security-waste.

For more information on the E-Enterprise Initiative, visit: https://www.epa.gov/e-enterprise.

For more information on EPA’s emergency response program, visit: https://www.epa.gov/emergency-response.

Source: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Quebec Government commits to Province-wide composting by 2025

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The Quebec government recently announced that is was putting $1.2 billion towards a composting strategy that will result in all citizens in the province having  access to composting services come 2025 and with the fully implemented by 2030.  In addition to providing composting services to citizens across the province, the plan is to manage composting in all industries, businesses and institutions by 2025 as well, in the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 270,000 tonnes per year by 2030.

“We are taking another step forward by investing $1.2 billion to divert organic matter from disposal sites and ensure their recovery, which will significantly contribute to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions,” Benoit Charette, Quebec Environment Minister said in a statement. “Thanks to the support of the government and the municipalities, the entire population as well as industries, businesses and institutions will be able to contribute to an even healthier management of our residual materials.”

Currently, only 57 per cent of Quebecers have access to food waste collection services. The province’s waste totals in at 5.8 million tons per year, 60 per cent of which is organic matter. The waste sector also emits around 4.55 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year and is the fifth largest contributor in the province.

The new strategy aims to adapt collection services as well as processing facilities to Quebec’s many regions. To promote composting and limit waste, the government is increasing landfill charges from $23.51 to $30 per ton.  Charette said this sends a clear signal that Quebec intends to discourage the elimination of residual materials in favour of their recovery.

The government claims that for this strategy to work, all actors, including those at the municipal level, must share responsibilities – and it says it plans on helping them better manage their green waste and improving their ecocentres to do so. Quebec will work with municipalities to speed up the establishment of collection services and processing facilities. In addition, the province will promote the quality of the organic matter treated and the development of local outlets for composts and other residual fertilizing materials from this collection.

The program to reduce, recover and recycle organic materials from industries, businesses and institutions, administered by Recyc-Québec, will be awarded $9.6 million. The Crown corporation is also responsible for a new recognition program for sorting centres for construction, renovation and demolition residue. That program is the result of concerted discussions with the residual materials management industry.

In summary, the goals of Quebec’s compost strategy are as follows:

  • Offer the collection of organic matter to all citizens of Quebec by 2025.
  • Manage organic matter in 100 per cent of industries, businesses and institutions by 2025.
  • Recycle or recover 70 per cent of the organic matter targeted by 2030.
  • Reduce 270,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The plan also intends to allocate funds to programs that finance the management of organic matter, which will help boost green infrastructures. The government says this will help boost the province’s economic recovery.

 

Understanding the Complexities of Waste Audits

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The Continuous Improvement Fund (CIF), a partnership between the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), the City of Toronto, Stewardship Ontario (SO) and the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (formerly Waste Diversion Ontario – WDO), recently published an article on understanding the complexities of waste audits.

The article provides extols the virtues of waste composition studies including the insights gained into program operations, aid in directing promotion & education (P&E) resources and developing long-term waste management strategies.  It also provides information on the correct sample size, frequency of sampling and distribution for a waste audit.

Below are some of the highlights from the original article.

How many samples should I take?

The challenge with waste audits is ensuring that an accurate representation of the waste being generated is obtained at minimal cost.  Statistical analysis provides information on confidence levels and margins of error.  Howe does that apply to waste composition studies? The confidence level and margin of error effectively represent a range, where if you repeat the same study, you can be ‘confident’ your results won’t change by more than the margin of error.

Factors Affecting Sample Size Determination

In waste composition audits, there is a broad range of materials that are sorted plus they vary in total amounts. So not only does the methodology need to consider whether the material is present, but also how prevalent it is as a proportion of the total sample composition. Not surprisingly, materials present in smaller quantities require more samples to achieve the same confidence level and margin of error as those that are more prevalent.

Additionally, there is a long list of factors that affect material generation and composition. Variables like household demographics, seasonality and program participation have a big impact on waste generation. In most cases, municipalities simply don’t have enough budget to develop a study that can consider all of the possible variables and achieve high confidence levels (i.e., > 90%) with low margins of error across the broad range of material typically present in the waste stream.

Trade-Offs

Recognizing that most municipalities have a limited budget, three key questions should be considered:

  1. How diverse is the population demographics?
  2. Are most residents provided with the same level of waste service?
  3. Are you looking for big picture trends or looking to target a specific material?

Available budget will ultimately dictate the number of samples that can be taken and the project team will have to decide how best to allocate them to examine the issues in question and address identified variables such as demographics. Obviously, the more consistent factors such as the waste service levels and population demographics are, the greater the data consistency will be and the higher the confidence level will be across a set number of samples.

By way of example, the current CIF/SO waste composition studies typically samples 100 single-family households broken down into 10 samples areas with 10 households in each sample area. The material is typically sorted into about 62 individual materials categories (e.g., PET, Newspaper, Cardboard) at an average ‘all in’ cost of about $110/household sample.

Dealing with Demographics

For most municipalities, it will be more important to focus their efforts on getting the sample distribution across the community right, especially if the data is being used for program planning. Recognizing that many communities have distinct demographic groups, it’s typically easiest to divide a community based on income levels as a surrogate for demographic differences. This can be done by obtaining Stats Canada data on household income levels, and proportioning it out into Low, Medium and High Income. Alternatively, a more complex analysis can be done that considers multiple factors through an Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) test as outlined in CIF Project #1059: Residential Audit Sample Optimization Toolkit.

Coming Soon: New tool for determining confidence levels and sample size

In order to help municipalities determine their confidence level for a set number of samples, the CIF has hired Martin Lysy, Associate Professor of Statistics and Director of the Statistical Consulting and Collaborative Unit at the University of Waterloo (PhD in Statistics, Harvard University, 2012) to develop a tool and guidance document to provide municipalities with an assessment of the trade-offs between statistical accuracy and budget.

The tool relies on ballpark estimates of waste composition data that the CIF has collected, or users can specify from their own historical waste audits. Based on these inputs and user-specified margins of error and confidence levels, the tool will estimate the number of samples required. Users can also test different sample sizes to see the resulting confidence levels and margin of error to ensure they can meet budget constraints. Work is still under way to finalize this new tool but if you want more information contact Mike Birett at [email protected] or Neil Menezes at [email protected].

Australian Government to directly invest $190 million on a Waste & Recycling Plan to Transform the Industry

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The Australian Government recently announced that it will commit $190 million to a new Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF) that will generate $600 million of recycling investment and drive a billion-dollar transformation of Australia’s waste and recycling capacity.

The government claims that more than 10,000 jobs will be created and over 10 million tonnes of waste diverted from landfill to the making of useful products as Australia turbo charges its recycling capacity.

The RMF will support innovative investment in new infrastructure to sort, process and remanufacture materials such as mixed plastic, paper, tyres and glass, with Commonwealth funding contingent on co-funding from industry, states and territories.

Australia’s waste and recycling transformation is being further strengthened by an additional:

  • $35 million to implement Commonwealth commitments under Australia’s National Waste Policy Action Plan, which sets the direction for waste management and recycling in Australia until 2030.
  • $24.6 million on Commonwealth commitments to improve our national waste data so it can measure recycling outcomes and track progress against our national waste targets.
  • The introduction of new Commonwealth waste legislation to formally enact the Government’s waste export ban and encourage companies to take greater responsibility for the waste they generate, from product design through to recycling, remanufacture or disposal (Product Stewardship).

The moves are part of a national strategy to change the way Australia looks at waste, grow the economy, protect the environment and reach a national resource recovery target of 80% by 2030.

“As we cease shipping our waste overseas, the waste and recycling transformation will reshape our domestic waste industry, driving job creation and putting valuable materials back into the economy,” Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said in a recent news release.

Susan Ley, Australian Minister of the Environment

“Australians need to have faith that the items they place in their kerbside recycling bins will be re-used in roads, carpet, building materials and a range of other essential items.

“At the same time, we need to stop throwing away tonnes of electronic waste and batteries each year and develop new ways to recycle valuable resources.

“As we pursue National Waste Policy Action Plan targets, we need manufacturers and industry to take a genuine stewardship role that helps create a sustainable circular economy.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to remodel waste management, reduce pressure on our environment and create economic opportunity.”

Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, Trevor Evans, said that the unparalleled expansion of Australia’s recycling capacity followed close consultation with industry.

“Our targeted investment will grow Australia’s circular economy, create more jobs and build a stronger onshore recycling industry,” Assistant Minister Evans said.

“Australian companies are turning plastics and household waste into furniture, decking, fencing and clothing, and we are developing new domestic markets for recycled materials by setting national standards for recycled content in roads and making recycled products a focus of procurement for infrastructure, defence estate management and general government purchasing.

“Our targeted investment will grow Australia’s circular economy, create more jobs and build a stronger onshore recycling industry.

“Companies are already moving with The Pact Group announcing a $500 million investment in facilities, research and technology, Coca-Cola Amatil committing to new recycling targets, and Pact, Cleanaway and Asahi Beverages establishing a $30 million recycling facility in Albury.”

Waste export ban to start from January 2021

The unparalleled expansion of Australia’s recycling capacity follows the 2019 National Waste Policy Action Plan, Australia’s government ban on exports of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres, and this year’s first ever National Plastics Summit.

The waste export ban was due to commence on July 1st, 2020. After consulting with industry and as a result of restrictions related to COVID-19 impacting Parliament’s ability to pass legislation in by July 1st, the ban will now commence on January 1st, 2021. The schedule for implementing the export ban on waste plastic, paper and tyres remains unchanged.

 

 

Start-up receives $2.75M from SDTC to commercialize the manufacture of bioplastics from agricultural byproducts

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Sustainable Canada Technology Canada (SDTC) recently announced that it had granted $2.75 million to EcoPackers, a Canadian cleantech company that converts agricultural byproducts into 100 percent plant-based and compostable alternatives to traditional plastic inputs.

EcoPackers Leadership Team

Conceived by CEO Nuha Siddiqui during her time as president of the University of Toronto chapter of the social entrepreneurship club Enactus, Ecopackers is on a mission to reduce the world’s reliance on single-use plastics.

The Toronto-based company, developed with support from the Creative Destruction Lab, got its start manufacturing biodegradable packing peanuts made from agricultural byproducts. It has since expanded into producing eco-resins that can be used by manufacturers in place of plastic.

Unlike many existing bioplastics, Ecopackers’ resin is designed to be compatible with existing manufacturing technologies and processes.

“We were one of the only eco-focused companies out there that wasn’t going against the plastic manufacturers – we were actually trying to work with them to develop products that worked with their technology,” Siddiqui, a Rotman Commerce graduate, told U of T News.

The all-woman leadership team behind Ecopackers – which also includes chief technology officer Chang Dong and chief operating officer Kritika Tyagi – is now working on pilot products with manufacturers around the world.

About SDTC

Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) is a foundation created by the Government of Canada to support Canadian companies with the potential to become world leaders in their efforts to develop and demonstrate new environmental technologies that address climate change, clean air, clean water and clean soil.

 

Waste Technology Company selected as a “Technology Pioneer” by the World Economic Forum

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Enevo, a smart waste technology company, was recently selected among hundreds of candidates as one of the World Economic Forum’s “Technology Pioneers”.  Enevo’s unique Internet of Things (IoT) sensor technology, analytics and logistics software monitor and predict waste behavior to create custom, sustainable, and efficient waste services.

The World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers are early to growth-stage companies from around the world that are involved in the design, development and deployment of new technologies and innovations, and are poised to have a significant impact on business and society. Technology Pioneers community is an integral part of the larger Global Innovators community of start-ups at the World Economic Forum.

Enevo’s waste technology was recognized for its innovative and practical use in the waste world and the benefits it creates for civilian life. Enevo’s smart waste sensor monitors fill levels and collections while its analytics software employs sensor data to create custom waste services. Resulting collection schedules and routes drive the fewest number of miles while avoiding container overflow, eliminating unnecessary collections and carbon emissions. Enevo’s customers decrease operation costs while increasing efficiency and sustainability.

“We are delighted the World Economic Forum has recognized our journey in changing waste management and how our innovations in waste data and logistics optimization contributes to global resource efficiency,” says Enevo CEO Fredrik Kekalainen. “We believe data is crucial to create meaningful changes. You can’t manage properly if you don’t have enough information. We started Enevo to help innovative technology,communities decrease waste and increase recycling practices through data insight. We are honored to receive this prestigious award and become part of the World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers community.”

This year’s cohort selection marks the 20th anniversary of the Tech Pioneers community. Throughout its 20-year run, many Technology Pioneers have continuously contributed to advancement in their industries while some have even gone on to become household names. Past recipients include Airbnb, Google, Kickstarter, Mozilla, Palantir Technologies, Spotify, TransferWise, Twitter and Wikimedia.

Technology Pioneers have been selected based on the community’s selection criteria, which includes innovation, impact and leadership as well as the company’s relevance with the World Economic Forum’s Platforms.

About Enevo

Enevo is the leading international smart waste technology company. With more than 100 patents, Enevo’s sensor technology and advanced analytics software creates custom waste solutions based on unique waste behavior. Enevo’s 40,000+ active sensors and software suite increase efficiency, reduce collections, decrease carbon emissions, decrease operating costs, and increase sustainability. Enevo has offices in Espoo, Finland, Nottingham, UK, and Boston, USA, and a global reseller network in more than a dozen countries.

About World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum, committed to improving the state of the world, is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation. The Forum engages the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. (www.weforum.org).

About the Global Innovators:

The Global Innovators Community is a group of the world’s most promising start-ups and scale-ups that are at the forefront of technological and business model innovation. The World Economic Forum provides the Global Innovators Community with a platform to engage with public- and private-sector leaders and to contribute new solutions to overcome current crises and build future resiliency.

Companies who are invited to become Global Innovators will engage with one or more of the Forum’s Platforms, as relevant, to help define the global agenda on key issues.

Global Smart Waste Management Market valued at at $1.5 Billion

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According to a recent market research report prepared by Maximize Market Research, the global smart waste management market was valued at US$ 1.5 Billion in 2019 and is expected to reach approximately US$ 9.53 Billion by 2027, at compound annual growth rate of 26% during forecast period of 2020 to 2027.

The global smart waste management market is segmented into Waste Type, Solution, Service, Applications and Regions. Based on Waste Type Market is segmented into Industrial Waste and Residential Waste. Based on the solution, the smart waste management market is segmented into network management, analytics and reporting solutions, optimization solutions, asset management, asset management, fleet management, remote monitoring and others. On the basis of service, the global market is bifurcated into managed services and professional services. On the basis of application, the market is divided into food & retail, manufacturing & industrial, municipalities, construction, healthcare, and colleges & universities.

Not only for smart cities or urban areas but smart waste management needed in the rural areas of a country as well. As wastes create problem to the environment and can harm to the humans as well as animals on planet by spreading any kind of diseases and allergies. Wrong methods of waste disposal and landfills also cause environmental hazards and health issues, hence it has become need of the current and forecasted era to look out for so

me smart ways to dispose of the waste. If waste management has done in a good way, it may act as a renewable resource. The companies that offer smart solutions for waste collection primarily focus on three solutions intelligent monitoring, route optimization, and analytics.

The rising volume of waste is creating complexities in the logistics of waste collection and need to meet the several regulations by government and environmental authorities relating to waste processing, urges for the better waste management solutions, which can be made possible by the use of advanced technologies, such as IoT sensors, RFID, GPS, etc. Owing to the several reasons, the smart waste management market is at an emerging phase, and it is estimated to witness healthy growth of CAGR 26% during forecast period 2020-2027.

The report encompasses the market by different segments and region, providing an in-depth analysis of the overall industry ecosystem, useful for making an informed strategic decision by the key stakeholders in the industry. Importantly, the report delivers forecasts and share of the market, further giving an insight into the market dynamics, and future opportunities that might exist in the Global Smart Waste Management Market. The driving forces, as well as considerable restraints, have been explained in depth. In addition to this, competitive landscape describing the strategic growth of the competitors have been taken into consideration for enhancing market know-how of our clients and at the same time explain Global Smart Waste Management Market positioning of competitors.