Trash is a massive carbon offender.
Whether it sits in a landfill or burns in an incinerator, trash releases harmful greenhouse gases. And much of that waste could be repurposed or recycled, if only it were better identified and sorted.
That's where a startup called Smarter Sorting comes in.
Both retailers and manufacturers must comply with literally thousands of regulations tied to the managing and disposing of consumer products. So when it comes to recycling or repurposing products, rather than face even more regulations, they often just trash them.
That's where Smarter Sorting enters the picture by offering a way to reduce regulatory costs by showing companies exactly what is in their products, through an enormous and constantly growing database of ingredients.
"We have a huge data set, over 456 billion data points, on what products actually are, their physical and chemical attributes ... . We started that database for regulatory compliance needs to help companies understand how to make, market and move them safely, environmentally compliantly and efficiently," said Jacqueline Claudia, CEO of Smarter Sorting.
Using the Smarter Sorting data to determine exactly what is in the product, and especially if any ingredients are toxic, retailers and manufacturers can make more informed decisions on how best to handle its inevitable disposal.
Covered products include food, chemicals, plastics and product packaging, to name a few. By identifying every ingredient, Smarter Sorting can inform a company specifically how to better dispose of it, recycle it, or, perhaps in the case of food, donate it to a food bank. Albertsons, Costco and Wegmans are clients.
"Albertsons, one of our customers today, just released a sustainability goal report with four main pillars in it, and one of the main pillars for them is the reduction of food waste," said Claudia.
Smarter Sorting also works with Republic Services, one of the largest environmental waste services companies in the U.S.
"By having all the data digitized, we're able to make informed decisions and speedy decisions that really improve efficiencies," said Simon Bell, area president for Republic Services. "By reducing the amount of waste we have to pick up, we're reducing our carbon footprint because we're fewer miles on the road, less material to landfills."
Smarter Sorting's backers include Regeneration VC and G2 Venture Partners, with total funding to date of just over $55 million.
CNBC climate producer Lisa Rizzolo contributed to this piece