Peter Riedo and his mechatronics lab group from Colorado State created the Automatic Recycler that tracks trash. Gadget Freaks not pictured include Sean Kalahar, Tino Tadiello, Randy Vieira, and Eric Swanstrom.
1. Invent something fool-proof and someone will immediaitely create a bigger fool.
2. Artificial intelligence will never beat natural stupidity.
That given, some history: I lived in Plano TX from 1999 through 2002. When I moved in, they had a very ambitious recycling program, with "Herbie Curbies" with mutliple compartments for different recyclables. The pickups were done by trucks with only a driver, with an automatic arm that grabbed the container and dumped it into a chute with matching dividers that directed each type to a separate compartment in the vehicle. About a year later they told everyone to pull out the dividers (fortunately removable) as they were changing to a "single stream semi-automated" process "because the processor had streamlined their process." My wife and I visited and toured the facility one day to see this marvel. It consisted of a huge conveyor belt onto which the "single-stream" unsorted stuff was dumped directly from the incoming trucks. The only "automatic" part was segregation of ferrous material by magnets; the rest of the sorting was done by a fair number of people in protective clothing working from both sides of the belt. Each one was a "specialist" who pulled thier category of recyclable (only the ones that made economic sense to recycle, like glass and aluminum) and put in into a bin next to them. The majority of the load went to the end of the belt, where it was.... loaded into a garbage truck and taken to the landfill!
Since 2003, I live in Cobb County GA. There is a major recycling program here also. When we moved in, we were given 2 large blue bins for all types of recyclables, along with a wheeled cart (similar to Plano's) strictly for other trash. Yard waste of all kinds is (to this day) collected separately (on a different day); at first, this was 100% sent to a central composting facility. The resulting compost/mulch was available free to all county residents, and the rest sold to a reseller. About 2 years later, the composting program was abruptly terminated, as the storage area was completely full. Very few residents took any out, and the only reseller had pulled out unless it was PAID a significant amount of money for each load it took away! Now 100% of the "yard waste" goes directly into the landfill.
Why? I am a gardener, with a decent-sized organic vegetable garden. I also have my own compost heap, that gets 100% of our organic food waste plus much of the detritus of our landscaping. I never put out any "yard waste." My compost heap produces all that I need. Also, I don't own a truck, so I couldn't reasonably have taken enough compost from the county anyway. Most likely this profile (combined with the non-gardener group) probably describes the vast majority of the residents of our suburban county.
Lesson? Always consider the economics and the knowledge/cooperativeness level of the general populace needed for success!
Interesting concept until somebody whose IQ is less than their shoe size rams some trash through the closed lid. It has been my experience that anything accessible to the general public needs to be muscular monkey proof, or better yet, gorrila proof. The slickest idea would be a bin that decides what the material is as it is passing. Metals would trigger an inductive sensor, and the iron metals would trigger the ferromagnetic sensor. Glass would be next, probably detected by it's better echoing of an ultrasonic signal, and the rest would be assumed to be plastic. And the bin lid would trigger the power switch, so the battery could last a long time. It would be a lot more complicated but it would have a chance of surviving a few weeks.
Good points, William. I agree this gadget would need to be ruggedized before it could be set out in a college lunch area. You just know it's going to be used as a basket shot for glass juice or Snapple bottles.
Now this fun project can be integrated with the smart kitchen, which IDs your disposed items, and asks if you want to add this to a shopping list. Then when you go to the store, you have a list of eggs, milk, and cookies etc that are no longer in your pantry. Next step is connection to the online ordering from the store and delivery of the items before dinnertime. When we get really intelligent kitchens, perhaps the toaster can query the breadbox for some sourdough! Though I bet Nick Parks has already invented that for Wallace and Grommit..
That's funny, BestFirmware. Remember WebVan? It was the dot com company launched by the founder of Border Books. It was a shopping and delivery service. I think it failed because we like to shop. We like to make our shopping lists and we like to buy those impulse items on the shelf. It's not something we want to automate.
This type of scanner for items coming out of the pantry or going into the trash already exists. Or you can get the GroceryIQ app--or a similar app--for your smart phone (iOS or Android), rather than buy another gadget. Maybe there's app that can scan bar codes on products and decide first whether or not you can recycle it and if the latter, determine what bin to put the item in. Here in Utah, all recyclables go into one large container for weekly pickup. --Jon
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