New AI recycling tech can sort plastic on its own

Artificial intelligence aims to help the world overcome the struggle to send recyclable plastic to landfill.

New recycling technology has been developed using artificial intelligence to help programs cost-effectively sort plastics efficiently to stop recyclable materials from being sent to landfill.

Only a fraction of the plastic that people separate from trash actually avoids landfills.

While many people involved in municipal programs carefully sort their waste, most of the plastic they believe is being recycled is still going to landfill. The biggest of these is that once the waste is collected, individual plastics still have to be sorted. On a large scale and considering cost, recycling technology has not yet reached the point where many plastics end up in landfills.

Recycling Technology - Plastic Sorting

Without proper quick and easy sorting, trying to dispose of all recycled material becomes difficult, slow and expensive. It is impossible and very expensive to keep up with incoming waste to be sorted when much of it has to be done by hand. Failure to do so and mixing the wrong plastic means that the remanufactured plastic will be defective and not used as needed, wasting the entire batch and the energy and resources needed to produce it.

Using artificial intelligence recycling technology may help overcome this challenge and improve project efficiency.

“The recycling process is pretty complicated. If you go to the supermarket or do your daily recycling, you need to know how to properly put all recyclables (items) (like bottles or other items) into the right bin. You need to know the label, know the icon ,” explained a PhD from UTS’s School of Electrical and Data Engineering. Xu Wang.

In this context, Dr. Wang led a team of university researchers from the Global Big Data Technology Centre (GBDTC) to develop a “smart waste bin capable of automatically sorting incoming plastics”.

The bin uses a range of different forms of recycling technology, including robotics, machine vision and artificial intelligence.

“The machine can sort different (types) of waste, including glass, metal cans and plastics,” Wang explained. This includes different forms of plastic, including PET and HDPE.

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