Smart recycling bin determines the material type of your waste

Have you ever hesitated in front of a recycling bin, trying to determine if your waste can be recycled? Wondering if it’s made from a recyclable plastic, or if your coffee cup is compostable? British consulting and product development company Cambridge Consultants created a solution to your worries: a smart recycling bin that determines for you what your waste is made of.

In the UK, only 40-45 per cent of packaging materials are recycled, and worldwide these numbers are low. That low rate generally doesn’t come from unwillingness by the consumer, but rather because they are confused about the type of material their waste is made of. Some coffee cups, for example, are recyclable, but others are not. However, to the untrained eye, the difference between the two is often unclear.

The technology within the smart recycling bin is designed to identify the type of waste the consumer wants to dispose of using image recognition. The system combines machine vision with machine learning and can be trained to recognise new items over time. It can even detect the difference between a recyclable cup and a compostable cup.

The consumer places their waste on the scanner, where the type of material is determined. A light then indicates which section of the waste disposal unit the item should be placed in.

Through a connected phone app, the customer can be identified and rewarded once the item is correctly deposited. This reward could be points to spend, or even a donation to charity.

The company hopes that implementing a smarter recycling system helps make a difference to consumers’ behaviour, and influence their decisions about recycling. In their press release, they state, “In the long term, providing clear guidance on which materials to recycle will reduce levels of contaminated waste and will educate the consumer in types of recyclable materials and good recycling practice.”

Photos: Cambridge Consultants