The Recycling Bots

The problem

Recycling your trash can be a confusing task as there is a big variety of trash categories including glass, paper, cardboard, metal, plastic, batteries, electronic, biodegradable waste and more.

Our research from the course People-Centered Research showed that most people in Denmark are very supportive of recycling, but hopelessly confused about what goes in which bin. Packages can be formed of more than one material, which leads to ambiguity about which bin it belongs in.

What are Recycling Bots?

Keeping this problem in mind we created a smart recycling bin system called The Recycling Bots. We wanted to show that it is possible for machines to recognize different trash categories and show that the machine does fewer errors than a human when sorting trash.

The Recycling Bots are meant to exist in public areas throughout cities. When people have trash to throw out, they can place the trash under the scanning camera. This is recognized by the Bots and it gives instruction via a speaker in which bin to throw the trash. Furthermore, the correct bin’s lid is opened.

We trained the Bots to recognize 20 different trash items, including bananas, coffee cups and pizza boxes using Wekinator and Processing. The correct trash cans are opened by using servo motors controlled by an Arduino Uno.

The bin also remembers all items thrown away that day and then creates an artistic rendition of the trash. This is done by generating a sentence from all the trash in the Bots and generating an image from that sentence. The image is then printed out for people to take home. The aim was to make the act of throwing trash engaging for people.

Finally, the goal of Recycling Bots is to make the recycling process in Denmark more efficient, and reduce error, so that people will end up recycling correctly, leading to less pollution and confusion.