The circular economy is an emerging economic system that addresses global environmental issues with sustainable practices — specifically, those that eliminate waste and landfill. For a circular economy definition think of a collection systems and processes that promote sharing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling of materials. The circular economy paradigm integrates best practices to reduce the use of disposables and keep materials and resources in productive use for as long as possible across all consumer, industry and manufacturing processes that involve use of renewable and non-renewable resources.
These efforts are critical in the movement to reverse the damage of the non-sustainable linear economy where industries and individuals rapidly use and dispose of products and materials.
IoT has become the driving force behind the adoption of circular economy principles. Be it automating devices for self-monitoring or improving designs for recycling, companies leverage IoT technology for transitioning to a circular economy and reducing our carbon footprint.
The IoT is a system of interconnected physical devices such as sensors, radios and routers that collect and exchange data wirelessly. Organizations across many vertical industries use IoT technology to optimize their operations to reduce environmental impact and make more sustainable decisions. See our IoT Fun Facts blog to learn how this technology is impacting applications across Industry 4.0, healthcare, smart cities and the green economy.
Smart technology supports environmental sustainability through insights and automation, leading to optimized use of natural resources, minimized waste, renewable energy like wind and solar, and more sustainable cities. All these factors also enhance the circular economy. According to the World Economic Forum report on Internet of Things Guidelines for Sustainability, around 85% of IoT deployments are addressing sustainable development goals. IoT innovation is truly a game-changer for the advancement of a sustainable environment.
Sustainability is about optimizing our use of resources and reducing emissions. Businesses today are embracing energy-efficient practices to enhance their operations while reducing the environmental impact of digital devices in three ways:
See our article, Can 5G Help the Environment, to learn how 5G, IoT and artificial intelligence are supporting the shift to sustainable solutions that lower our carbon footprint.
IoT devices with connected sensors can detect industrial emissions, and support manufacturing automation and proactive management of renewable and non-renewable resources. These processes enable organizations to eliminate unexpected failures, reduce truck rolls, increase operational efficiency and improve the sustainability of smart technology.
Similarly, the data garnered by sensors helps to manage waste, automate and enhance materials recycling and drive reuse strategies in support of the circular economy.
Let’s look at three circular economy principles driven by the IoT.
This circular economy principle asks industries to rethink their supply chain processes to avoid waste and emissions, and for tech innovation to drive the sustainability of materials use, from plastics to electronics to vehicle tires. To minimize waste, products can be designed to last longer and be refurbished for reuse. IoT-enabled systems can optimize the entire product cycle from material sourcing to dismantling and reusing products to reduce waste.
Of course, Internet of Things environmental applications extend beyond industry, and include smart home and smart building technology, better practices like use of efficient HVAC systems, and even social benefits of IoT. Today, consumers see airports, restaurants and homeowners associations converting to smarter, more efficient devices and practices, which fuels a “green" mindset and buy-in.
IoT technology supports waste reduction and circular economy sustainability in three ways:
IoT can help reduce waste with intelligent devices and management systems that help recover, restore and recycle products and minimize trash.
IoT-enabled waste and recycling supports smarter resource use in several ways:
As an example, a smart trash bin developed by BigBelly Solar reduces the resources needed to collect trash and recyclables, with sensors and connectivity. Trash is compacted so that each bin can contain more, and pick-up services are only routed when needed, reducing the use of fossil fuels.
IoT is integrated into a range of initiatives to regenerate natural resources, supporting initiatives from global tree planting to the health of bees and wildlife, to critical habitat and wetland redevelopment initiatives.
Here are a few examples of IoT in natural resource regeneration:
Let’s look at some additional IoT environmental impact and sustainability examples.
Smart agriculture and Internet of Things water management projects optimize resource use in farming with the use of sensors and smart devices.
Clean energy and renewable energy production focus on green technologies like wind, solar and hydro power. Many businesses have emerged as IoT innovators, developing smart methodologies for renewable energy production and efficiency.
Here are a few projects demonstrating the impact of technology in sustainable development:
Optimizing energy use in homes, businesses and transit systems, and using energy-efficient smart devices, can dramatically improve energy efficiency and sustainability. For example, multiple studies on smart home environmental impact demonstrate that automation — from use of thermostats to light sensors — can reduce carbon footprint, especially as these systems improve in efficiency.
Here are three companies that work with Digi to leverage IoT for energy use reduction:
IoT enables smart infrastructures and sustainable cities in many ways, including smart city lighting, water use management and infrastructure for electric vehicle charging. Here are three such examples of smart infrastructure projects:
Connectivity and embedded solutions to meet the needs of diverse industries
As we’ve seen from the examples, global enterprises and a vast range of industries are using IoT technologies to deploy automation and resource management projects. Together these initiatives improve energy efficiency, reduce resource use and support the circular economy. For example:
Imagine when one day, every bottle or carton you purchase is made from recycled or compostable materials, every computer part is refurbished, and the next phase for each product we use is a new use instead of a trash bin. We must actively innovate and drive toward that goal to preserve our planet, and rid our oceans and natural landscapes of plastics.
IoT is pivotal for a sustainable environment and the circular economy. This is why we are witnessing a huge shift towards efficient practices and reduced environmental impact through green technology applications.
Get our IoT-Enabled Green Tech Guide to learn more.
Digi can support your sustainability goals with a broad portfolio of IoT products and services for connectivity, embedded design and network management. Contact us today to start the conversation.