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AI recycle bins could know what you’re throwing away

These smart bins are supposed to help clear up any confusion about what can be recycled.
Rob LeFebvre, @roblef
August 24, 2017
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Cambridge Consultants

Is that coffee cup recyclable or compostable? It can be tough to tell, for sure, but a new recycling system from Cambridge Consultants aims to help using image recognition and machine learning. With low recycle rates in the US and UK, possibly due to consumer confusion over what's possible to recycle, this new retail-focused recycle point could help us all know what to recycle and what to trash. The company envisions a future where you'll even be rewarded via a phone app with points or a donation to charity when you recycle this way.

When you scan an object at one of these new bins, it should be able to recognize the type of waste deposited and tell you which section to place your item into. It can even learn new materials and products over time, thanks to the included AI. There's no detail on when you'll start seeing recycling centers like this, however. We've reached out to the company for more information and will update when we hear back.

There have been home recycling units with a scanner on them before, but this is the first recycling system we've seen that focuses on retail and commercial uses. The idea here is for consumer brands (think Coca Cola or Pepsi) or food outlets to sponsor a "smarter" recycling point to both reinforce a brand's customer engagement as well as keeping more recyclables from the landfill. "Consumer brands are coming under increasing pressure from the government, lobby groups and consumers like you and me, to take responsibility for the end-of-life of their products." Cambridge Consultant's Sajith Wimalaratne said in a statement. "The smarter recycling system gives a brand a real reason to be in contact with the consumer while showing a commitment to make a positive impact."

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