- A new virtual reality (VR) experience aims to teach Australian children about recycling through interactive tours of processing plants.
- The program gives users a walkthrough of the Hume recycling plant in Canberra, allowing students to virtually sort waste and play a series of mini-games to understand how recycling works. It was released this month from Protein One and Rotor Studios.
- The program aims to show children how waste is handled in a recycling facility so they can create responsible disposal habits before they have a chance to develop bad ones.
The Australian waste and recycling industry is the latest to take advantage of the new educational opportunities offered by VR technology, but it is far from the first. VR offers a markedly different instructional experience for both children and adults, as it can position the user as a subject, rather than an observer, in a situation.
The effects can be profound. Since 2011, researchers in Catalonia have used VR software to work with perpetrators of domestic violence, The New Yorker reported last month, putting them in situations where they receive abuse, rather than doling it out. The results, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports this February, showed that participants got "significantly better" in recognizing fear in the faces of women, a trait usually deficient in domestic abusers.
Now, the Australian waste industry is leveraging the power of VR to help schoolchildren understand how different types of waste are processed. The hope is that once they understand the process behind recycling they will be more responsible about how they consume and dispose. The new VR software also aims to expand access to the Hume plant. The facility currently operates tours, but can only handle up to 25 participants at one time.
As China's new waste import policies continue to ripple around the globe, Australia is one of many markets facing significant obstacles in recycling — and this VR game is one tool that could help it turn around. The U.S. waste and recycling industry could benefit from adopting technology like this to influence the next generation of consumers to reduce contamination and recycle better.