Tuesday, September 27

This AI-powered ‘smart bin’ sorts recycling on its own

Despite the best intentions, the sad reality is that only a fraction of the plastics we conscientiously separate from the rest of our waste are actually recycled.

And one of the main contributing factors to this state of affairs is that plastic recycling is not properly sorted.

Take Australia, for example. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), almost half of the waste generated annually in the country is recycled.

But in New South Wales alone, only 10% of the state’s 800,000 tonnes of plastic is recycled because it’s not sorted properly, according to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).

“The recycling process is quite complicated. If you go to the supermarket or for daily recycling, you need to know how to properly place all the recyclables, like bottles or others, in the correct bins. You need to know the labels, know the icons,” says Dr Xu Wang, from the School of Electrical and Data Engineering at the University of Technology Sydney.

With this in mind, Wang and a team of researchers from the university’s Global Big Data Technologies Center (GBDTC) have designed a high-tech “smart trash can” that can do this sorting automatically.

The device is equipped with an arsenal of advanced technologies, combining artificial intelligence, robotics and artificial vision. Suffice to say, this isn’t your average wheelie bin.

“This machine can classify different (types) of trash, including glasses, metal cans, and plastics,” says Wang.

More importantly, Wang says, the bin can recognize different types of plastics, including PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and HDPE (high-density polyethylene).

“We combine the latest technologies, including IoT (Internet of Things). We use different sensors to detect weight, matter, materials. And we also use the latest AI (artificial intelligence) technology,” explains Wang.

“So you can see, we have a camera and we run an AI algorithm to classify different types of plastics, then we use IoT and other robotic technologies to sort waste into bins,” he adds. -he.

According to a “circular economy roadmap” published last year by CSIRO, innovations like this could triple the number of jobs created in the waste-to-energy industry by encouraging the production of materials high-quality recycled materials and the development of new markets.

For now, the trash can is a prototype and still needs fine-tuning, but its inventors are already thinking about marketing it.

Ultimately, their dream is to see smart trash cans in malls, schools, cinemas, businesses and airports.

“Customers just drop off the trash and leave. It’s easy,” says Wang.

For more on this story, watch the video in the media player above.