Recycling robo-bin among innovations to bridge circular economy gap

Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, is unveiling the latest recycling innovations this National Science Week to inspire the next generation of leaders who will lead our circular economy future.

Year 6 students from Marrickville Public School joined CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall and researchers from CSIRO and the University of Technology Sydney to test a new ‘Smart Bin’ prototype and interact with building materials made from recycled glass and polystyrene.

Smart Bin technology uses Internet of Things (IoT), sensing, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and infrared spectroscopy technologies to automatically sort plastic, metal and glass, as well as sort specific types of plastic. The bin is a proof-of-concept device designed to improve recycling rates and reduce contamination in waste streams, with NSW recycling just 10% of its 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste.

It also supports the transformation of waste into a resource. Small Victorian company Casafico creates commercial building materials from recycled glass, newspaper and polystyrene, much of it sourced from online waste exchange marketplace ASPIRE, which spun off from CSIRO in 2013.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said innovation and collaboration are key to developing Australia’s circular economy and are at the heart of CSIRO’s Ending Plastic Waste collaborative mission, which aims to reduce 80% of plastic waste entering the Australian environment by 2030.

“The science-based solutions that will grow our circular economy require collaboration at every step of the innovation process – from understanding plastics at the molecular level to reinventing how plastic is used, manufactured and recycled, to bringing products to market. solutions that use new technologies like this. Smart Bin, which is currently in discussions to enter the market, and create new companies like ASPIRE to create new jobs in the circular economy,” said Dr Marshall.

“Science can transform our economy into a circular economy that renews and reuses what we previously threw away, creates better paying jobs, advances new Australian technology and protects our environment, all while inspiring the next generation with what is possible. – during National Science Week and throughout the year.”

Wei Ni, Principal Investigator at CSIRO, said, “Smart Bin technology could be used in places such as shopping malls, schools, cinemas, cafes and airports. It will improve recycling rates because it is so easy to use and could ensure that materials can be recovered for reuse. »

Professor Ren Ping Liu, researcher at UTS, said, “Together with CSIRO, we have developed the latest IoT and AI technologies to build this amazing smart trash can. It can simplify the recycling process and improve the efficiency of waste classification and sorting. The Smart Bin will help promote the circular economy and contribute to a carbon neutral future. »

Casafico’s communications manager, Samantha Mucci, spoke about the benefits of operating in the circular economy.

“Sourcing waste through Aspire helps us become carbon positive, save scarce natural resources and divert waste from landfills,” she said.

“We cannot underestimate how big a difference small changes can make. It’s great to see the next generation learning this.

In keeping with the National Science Week 2022 theme “Glass: More Than Meets the Eye”, CSIRO has developed curriculum-aligned lesson plans with suggested classroom activities around the theme of glass, plastic and circular economy made available to support teachers nationwide. This extends CSIRO’s 40 years of experience in actively supporting STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning for students and teachers with high-quality education programs.

CSIRO’s 2021 Circular Economy Roadmap revealed that innovation could triple job creation through resource recovery by designing new products and materials, advanced manufacturing and adopting new business models that will create domestic and export markets for waste streams. Raising Australia’s recovery rate by just 5% would add about $1 billion to GDP.

Additional Information Links

National Science Week 2022: Curriculum-aligned activities for elementary grades – CSIRO

Blog CSIRO Smart Bin

Plastic Waste Disposal Mission

CSIRO Education and Awareness

CSIRO spokespersons are available for comment

Wei Ni, CSIRO Senior Researcher and Smart Bin Researcher

Dr Naomi Boxall, CSIRO Research Scientist and Circular Economy Advocate

Program Director of CSIRO Education and Outreach Services Ruth Carr.

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