In urban environments such as cities, one of the biggest problems is waste management. The combination of businesses and residential areas creates a lot of garbage to deal with. And it’s only getting worse – according to the World Bank, global waste generation is expected to increase by 70% by 2025. So, how can we manage all this trash?

One solution is using artificial intelligence (AI) for garbage recognition. AI can help us not just recognise different types of waste, but also to sort it for recycling or reuse. Let’s take a look at how AI is being used for smarter waste management and why it works so well.

What Is AI Waste Management?

The term ‘AI Waste management’ or ‘AI-powered waste management’ simply refers to the use of artificial intelligence in relation to waste management. We might associate AI with computer chips, luxury cars and Big Data but, in actual fact, AI is already being used in a variety of ways to manage the infrastructure around us – and that includes waste management.

For example, ‘intelligent’ rubbish bins can be used to notify waste management companies when trash cans are full, which means that collection routes can be optimised, labour reduced, and fuel saved. Alternatively, AI can be used to pair people with nearby refuse services and sites, ensuring that more waste is sent to recycling centres as opposed to landfills.

While there are various ways that AI can be used within the waste management industry, it’s AI-powered garbage sorting that can really revolutionise the industry and transform our environment. 

What Is AI Garbage Sorting?

When rubbish is thrown away, it need to be sorted before any valuable items can be recycled. This takes place in a Materials Recovery Facility, or MRF, and the growing value of recyclable materials means that there is a stronger than ever economic case for sorting and recovering materials that would once have been put into landfill.

Before rubbish can be recycled, however, it needs to be sorted and processed. This means that different types of trash need to be segregated. Separating paper from plastics or removing hazardous waste ensures each type can be processed safely and appropriately, with the maximum amount of waste then being sent for recycling.  Materials that are recycled avoid them being sent to landfill, with the associated harmful environmental impact that causes.

Until recently, garbage sorting was undertaken by a combination of human workers and mechanical, dumb machine sorting. Now, smart waste-sorting using artificial intelligence, combined with robotics, can streamline the task and increase the speed and accuracy with which rubbish waste can be sorted. It can even differentiate between food-grade and non-food-grade plastics, creating new markets with higher value outputs due to increased purity.

Recycleye Vision provides the necessary equipment for smart waste sorting. Our leading AI computer vision system scans waste and identifies materials across 28 different classes. With real-time data, plant managers can see exactly what waste consists of and take appropriate action to ensure the efficiency of the waste sorting facility. In addition, Recycleye Robotics can be used in combination with Recycleye Vision to further automate the sorting process, using robotic technology to achieve 33,000 picks over just 10 hours.

AI-driven robots are able to work long hours at a consistent speed which allows the sorting of waste to continue for an extended period, with an AI-powered  waste-detection capability that is as accurate as the human eye.

For recycling facilities, this means enhanced outputs, increased productivity, and reduced costs, as well as a rise in the number of valuable materials are sent for recycling.

How Can AI Help the Environment?

Artificial intelligence is changing the way we live and there’s no doubt that it can have a positive environmental impact. Within the waste management industry, the potential impact of AI on the environment shouldn’t be overlooked.

Currently, a significant proportion of waste is sent to landfills (around 24% in the UK in 2019), sometimes even when the person discarding the trash intends for it to be recycled. If rubbish is placed in the wrong recycling bin or waste is co-mingled, for example, the additional burden of sorting and separating the trash can be seen as excessive in terms of cost and time. In such cases, potentially recyclable material can be unnecessarily downcycled in landfills, where it produces greenhouse gases (GHGs), releases toxins into the surrounding area and disrupts natural biodiversity.

When artificial intelligence is used for waste segregation however, materials recovery facilities can separate trash with the additional benefits of AI robots being able to work over extended periods consistently. This naturally increases the economic case for those facilities undertaking this task and, in turn, reduces the amount of waste being sent to landfills.

So, in summary, the installation of AI garbage sorting technology has a direct, beneficial impact on the environment, as well as financial, operational, and commercial advantages for waste management companies.

AI and the Circular Economy

A circular economy promotes economic development via the reuse, repair, recycling, and refurbishment of existing materials. When all materials are repurposed or recycled, waste is eradicated along with its negative environmental impact.

Many people believe that transitioning to a circular economy and drastically reducing or eradicating waste is the ultimate way to protect the environment and it can certainly have a positive impact on our natural surroundings.  Of course, the way we process waste and the amount of waste we recycle is a key tenant of a circular economy and making sustainable waste management cost-effective via AI garbage sorting takes us a step closer to this reality.

Using Advanced Technology in the Waste Management Industry 

Advanced technology, such as AI, computer vision and machine learning, is already being used in our day-to-day lives. From companies using AI to do business more sustainability, to homeowners using artificial intelligence to reduce their energy use, there are endless ways that technology can reduce our environmental impact.

When we apply AI to waste management on an industrial scale, however, we can see the biggest environmental and financial savings, which is why AI garbage sorting is such an important development. To learn more about Recycleye Vision and Recycleye Robotics can transform your operations, just get in touch.