With 3.3 million people in the U.S., Americans are generating more waste than ever before. Thankfully, the population is also becoming more environmentally conscious than they were in previous generations. In spite of this increase in the amount of trash produced, the negative impacts on our environment have actually been decreasing – mainly due to advancements in the waste industry. Here are three ways the waste industry has evolved over the last half a century to improve processes and reduce waste.

1. Advancements in Collection and Disposal

While it may seem futuristic, many waste containers now have sensors that trigger an alert when they are full and need servicing. Not only that, but new technologies and tools allow trash to be sorted faster and easier with the use of magnets, optical sorters, and advanced disk screens. This allows the disposal and collection of waste to operate more efficiently.

Speaking of efficiently, garbage trucks that used to run on diesel have been switched over to natural gas for most waste companies. This helps cut costs, has less impact on the environment, and creates a safer driving experience for workers.

2. Technological Developments for Route Optimization

Waste companies have invested a great deal in technologies to help optimize their routes. Automated trucks that feature robotic arms increase speed, efficiency, and employee safety. Not only does this reduce the time between stops, but it also helps decrease emissions with less “stop-and-go” action. What was once considered one of the most dangerous waste industry jobs has become much safer as collection drivers have more route support than they have before.

3. Increased Recycling Rates

Most waste collection companies have already switched to “single-stream” recycling. This means that customers can put everything into one container and the companies will take on the task of sorting through it. This has drastically increased recycling rates as customers are more likely to recycle when they don’t have to sort it themselves. It’s the increase in awareness around recycling – as well as people participating in recycling programs – that has drastically decreased the need for new landfills to be made.

Waste collection has come a long way from where it started. Not only do employees have safer working conditions, but there have been many improvements to lessen the impact on the environment as well. From updated truck systems to trash containers that can communicate with waste companies, technology has vastly improved the processes and procedures involved with getting rid of waste.