New artificial intelligence-based recycling technology can sort plastics on its own

AI is meant to help the world overcome its struggle to send recyclable plastics to landfills.

New recycling technology has been developed using artificial intelligence to help programs sort plastics efficiently and affordably to prevent recyclable materials from going to landfills.

Only some of the plastics people separate from their waste avoid landfills.

Even though many people benefiting from municipal programs carefully separate their waste, much of the plastic they think is recycled still ends up in the landfill. One of the biggest problems is that once the waste has been collected, the individual plastics still need to be sorted. On a large scale and with cost in mind, recycling technology has not reached the point where many plastics will end up somewhere other than landfill.

Without quick and easy sorting, it becomes difficult, slow and expensive to try to process all recycled materials. It becomes impossible to follow the incoming waste to be sorted and very expensive when a large part must be done by hand. Failure to do this and mixing up the wrong plastics means that the remade plastics will be faulty and not perform as needed, wasting the entire batch and the energy and resources needed to produce it.

Using AI recycling technology can help overcome this challenge and increase program efficiency.

“The recycling process is quite complicated. If you go to the supermarket or for daily recycling, you need to know how to properly place all recyclables, such as bottles or the like, in the correct bins. You have to know the labels, know the icons,” explained Dr Xu Wang from the School of Electrical and Data Engineering at the University of Technology Sydney.

That said, Dr Wang led a team of researchers from the university’s Global Big Data Technologies Center (GBDTC) in developing a “smart trash can that can automatically sort the plastics it receives”.

The trash can uses an array of different forms of recycling technology, including robotics, machine vision and artificial intelligence.

“This machine can classify different (types) of trash, including glasses, metal cans and plastics,” Wang explained. This includes the various forms of plastics, including PET and HDPE.