TED@UPS Speaker: Peter Harris

What if waste weren’t waste at all? Could the trash we produce fuel the machines that transport our critical goods? And– how can we make this happen?


Peter Harris

Peter Harris

Dealing with the waste of a consumer society is one of the greatest challenges of our modern times.

But Peter Harris wonders: what if waste weren’t waste at all? Could the trash we produce fuel the machines that transport our critical goods? And – how can we make this happen?

As the director of sustainability for UPS’s businesses in Europe, Harris ensures that UPS innovates in a way that allows the risks associated with societal challenges, like climate change, to turn into opportunities.

A UPS veteran of 26 years, he has served as the UK automotive director, UK industrial engineering director, and as a senior manager in corporate compliance.

Harris holds a Master’s degree in engineering from Cambridge University in the UK. Prior to joining UPS, he worked as a volunteer in Indonesia, experiencing sustainability at the grass-roots level.

Harris is also a director of a small company providing transport services to the UK’s National Health Service.

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More about Peter

Future of Cities Series on Longitudes: Peter Harris is a frequent contributor to Longitudes. His series, Future of Cities, gives readers a glimpse at the future trends we expect the world’s top cities to see. Trends include:


Future of Cities 1

Urban growth in today’s world is proceeding along a very different path to that of previous eras, which was dominated by concentric growth or sectoral growth patterns. The presence of dense slums surrounding many growing cities will complicate growth and development. Read more here.


Future of Cities 2

Population growth can result in more congestion, air pollution, and noise—all of which can negatively impact residents’ health, productivity, and, of course, their happiness. But cities, while dense, do not have to be polluted. In fact, urban spaces provide more opportunities for us to create communities that are more sustainable and efficient. Read more here.


Future of Cities 3

The way city-dwellers and tourists navigate cramped city streets in old town centers differs markedly from those traveling wide-open avenues designed for heavy traffic, and the positioning of landmarks substantially changes the flow of pedestrians through streets. The way all these pieces—walking paths, broad streets, landmarks, geographic elements—together form a whole is what uniquely identifies an urban space. Read more here.


Future of Cities 4

Meeting the challenges of future cities will require innovative, sustainable solutions. In no area is this more apparent than in basic services like sanitation, which can rapidly transport a country from the 19th century to the 21st — and improve health and quality of life for the population. Read more here.


Future of Cities 5

Rapid growth of smart, connected cities is already underway across Europe. But India is also leading the charge in developing smarter cities. Newly-elected Prime Minister Narenda Modi has unveiled an ambitious plan to fulfill a campaign promise and create 100 smart cities across India. Read more here.


Future of Cities 6

One of the most effective ways for a city to decrease congestion and pollution—and become safer, more livable, and more attractive to those looking to move to the city—is a strong network of public transportation. More and more often, city governments are implementing innovative solutions to improve local transit systems. Take Atlanta, where out-of-use railroad systems are being converted into park space and a new streetcar system is being created in an effort to ease the city’s infamous auto gridlock. Read more here.


Future of Cities 7

Almost everywhere, urban populations are aging. According to Oxford Economics’ Global Cities report, more than 150 million additional residents over age 65 will populate the world’s top cities by 2030. And roughly 40 percent of these seniors – or 61 million – will live in China’s leading cities. The challenges associated with a graying population — rising pension and health costs, labor shortages, creating access, offering home health care — are substantial. Read more here.


Future of Cities 8

Recent cases in the US and Europe have highlighted the challenges of containing such outbreaks both in the developing world—where it already seems out of control—and the developed world—where it can be extremely difficult to track. But a vigorous healthcare logistics system needs to be more agile than one that lurches from crisis to crisis. As the world changes, so too must healthcare evolve. Read more here.


Future of Cities 10

While energy prices are falling, especially in North America, cities in the developing world will require new, clean sources of energy as they become the new engines of the world economy. This growth comes at a crucial juncture: as the United Nations Climate Change Conference reminded us, the need for renewable and clean sources of energy has never been more imperative. Read more here.


Future of Cities 11.5

As more and more cities are built and retrofitted for the Internet of Things—as cities connect everyday objects like traffic signals, light poles, and electric meters—we can expect to see major changes in how they operate. As governments collect more real-time usage data on public systems, they should become better able to manage and respond to the needs of their constituents. Read more here.


Future of Cities 11

How will cities of the future find the resources to feed a huge increase in population, especially as urban areas creep into land that might otherwise be used for farming? Read more here.


Future of Cities 12

Changes in consumer spending patterns will have serious implications for companies preparing their business to thrive in these diverse markets. As the economic landscape changes over the coming years and as cities attract more and more high-powered consumers, companies will need to rethink everything – from their supply chains to the types of products and services they offer across the world. Read more here.


Future of Cities 14

High-speed rail isn’t just a fast and convenient way to travel long distances while reducing carbon emissions – it’s fundamentally changing economic integration around China. Today, China’s rail system transports twice as many passengers as Chinese airlines, and officials hope to lay an additional 10,000 miles (16,000 km) of track by 2020 – the equivalent of building America’s first transcontinental rail route five times over. Read more here.


Future of Cities 13

Educated Millennials are at the heart of the growth of city centers in the US, as shown by the rebirth of downtown factories as loft living spaces in cities like Asheville, N.C., or St. Louis, Mo. And in an effort to please this burgeoning workforce, more employers are relocating from city peripheries to the downtown core. Read more here.


TED@UPS If there’s one thing every UPSer has in common, it’s that we have an irresistible desire to figure it out and get it done. And that leads to some amazing ideas. TED@UPS explores both the destination and the journey of ideas – big and small – that inspire us, challenge how we think or feel and even change the world.

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Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.