by Emily Folk on January 9, 2020

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This year is just getting started, and now is a great time to examine some sustainable tech trends that seem likely to shape the year. Here are 10 of them.

1. Chemical Recycling for Plastics

Most of the world’s plastics don’t get recycled at conventional plants. However, researchers are working on an option called chemical recycling for common plastics. It breaks plastics down into their raw materials, and some efforts transform plastics into things like diesel. People are already well aware that plastics aren’t kind to the environment, but this pioneering method could make those materials more sustainable.

2. Blockchain

Blockchain, the distributed ledger system most commonly associated with cryptocurrencies, has broad potential to improve sustainability in 2020, too. For example, the technology can bring more transparency to the supply chain or verify that a product comes from a fair-trade supplier. Companies could also use the blockchain for waste management purposes, such as to track when trash bins become full. 

3. Technologies to Support a Circular Economy

The concept of a circular economy focuses on eliminating waste by sharing resources. A variety of apps, platforms and other technologies already promote the growth of the circular economy, and more are almost certainly on the way. People can already use social media to share their resources and let others know what’s available. That’s just one example of how easy it is for anyone to get involved in the circular economy with minimal effort. 

4. Vertical Farms

Climate change and the need to feed a growing population are two concerns shared by most agriculture professionals. Vertical farms could solve both of them and others. They’re tightly controlled indoor facilities where people grow food in rows that go from floor to ceiling. Most of the locations also rely heavily on data analysis to prevent the overuse of resources. 

5. Water Infrastructure Technology

Statistics indicate that 85% of Americans support increasing federal investment to update water infrastructure. Much of it is significantly outdated, and any problems could cause trouble for residents and businesses alike. However, some companies specialize in water infrastructure technology that continually detects signs of issues in a system. Expect more companies to start using such options in 2020 so that representatives know where to put their resources.

6. Agrivoltaics

Agrivoltaics involves using the same land for energy production via solar panels and growing crops. If farmers want to use some of their land for solar panels, they don’t necessarily have to sacrifice land by using it for only one purpose. Research from the University of Arizona showed some crops do better under solar panels because they stay protected from direct sunlight. Also, in August of 2020, the first international agrivoltaics conference will happen in France.  

7. Edible Packaging

What if people could eat packaging instead of recycling it? That’s another trend to watch in 2020, especially as people aim to cut down on waste production. In the United Kingdom, edible Oohos drink capsules recently received government funding. Plans are underway to potentially install machines in businesses, unlocking the possibility of creating thousands of the seaweed-based containers per day. 

8. Sustainable Smart City Technology

In many places, local and state governments are pushing forward with making smart cities. Some analysts believe that the technologies within those cities, such as the sensors, will lead the way with creating destinations that are more sustainable, as well as safer and better suited to individual needs. In 2020, city planners will continue to explore the link between smart tech and sustainability. 

9. A Focus on Eco-Friendly Event Venues

Many consumers specifically choose to buy from brands that have a proven track record of sustainability, even if that means paying a bit more. They’ll likely start demanding more sustainability from the places where they attend events, too. For example, a conference center could use automatic sensors on restroom sinks or install eco-friendly smart thermostats. 

10. Improved Charging Options for Electric Cars

The limited battery range is a major hurdle for electric cars to overcome before they reach the point of widespread adoption. However, several companies are working on solutions, and more are likely coming this year. Transportation authorities in London recently unveiled the first of several planned charging hubs. They accommodate six cars simultaneously and can offer up to 100 miles worth of power in 35 minutes.

An Exciting Year for Sustainable Tech Improvements

As each year begins, people often set goals to make it better than the last. If the items on this list are any indication, there are lots of things to anticipate concerning technology that helps us live in a more sustainable world. 

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