- Pittsburgh-based CleanRobotics has developed a robotic trash can — dubbed the "Trashbot" — that will automatically sort all of the garbage fed into it, placing recyclable materials into one can and non-recyclables into another.
- The inner-workings of the Trashbot are described as a series of ramps. When metal or other materials touch sensitive plates within the machine, the ramps switch and lead the trash into the proper receptacle, as reported by Tech Crunch. "We plan to use a combination of manual training and data accumulation to keep increasing the accuracy and efficiency of the Trashbot," said CleanRobotics CEO Vaish Krishnamurthy.
- While the invention is still just a working prototype, the team has raised $100,000 to work on the project.
Contamination caused by consumers is an industrywide problem that affects almost every stakeholder involved in the process. While educational programs and new MRF technologies are being developed to combat the issue, the industry may need a new hero — and it may be in the form of a robot.
"The idea for the project comes from the confusion that is caused by the recycling rules themselves. With the exception of the most obvious items (e.g., plastic bottles, glass bottles, and cardboard), most people really don’t understand which items are actually recyclable. Personally, I have often questioned the 'rules,' wondering if, for example, something like the plastic bag inside of a cereal box is recyclable, and it goes without saying that I am not the only one with such questions,” said Krishnamurthy to TechCrunch. "This confusion leads to good, recycling-conscious citizens trying to put as many questionable recyclables as possible into the recycling stream, thinking they are doing the right thing by doing so."
While pushes for education and proper knowledge of recycling are going to be the ultimate key to solving sorting issues, extra help from inventions like the Trashbot can only assist in the process.
So far, it is unclear if the Trashbot will also be able to sort organics from the waste stream.