The Smart Trash Bin project disrupts conventional methods of recycling and focuses on dispose of recyclable material correctly
In the ceaseless battle against the mounting surge of waste, a distinguished group of scholars hailing from Khalifa University in the United Arab Emirates, alongside CISAT, Claremont Graduate University in the United States, has emerged at the vanguard of innovation. Their groundbreaking undertaking? A sophisticated Smart Trash Bin, empowered by a cutting-edge computer vision system to smartly segregate waste into appropriate compartments.
The team, led by Shabir Hassan and Haziq Jeelani, Abdulhadi Shoufan, includes the diligent students Henok Daniel Kahsay, Amine Kidane Gebre’Egziabhier, Abdlmalek Ali Alshehhi, and Benhur Tekeste Kebede.
These scholars, animated by a shared vision for a more sustainable world, recognised a substantial impediment to the efficient recovery and processing of recyclable materials. Despite the ubiquity of multi-compartment waste bins in public spaces, bearing designations for recyclable items, non-recyclable trash, and organic food waste, the effectiveness of these disposal categories has been critically undermined. Their studies revealed that an alarming 90 per cent of items, despite designated disposal labels, were unrecyclable, thus necessitating largely manual pre-processing before recyclable items could be treated.
To confront this issue head-on, the Khalifa University team envisioned a revolutionary solution: A Smart Trash Can, underpinned by artificial intelligence and machine learning, capable of discerning between waste types and automatically depositing them into the correct bin compartment. This ingenious contraption promises to alleviate the strain on recycling systems while enhancing efficiency and accuracy.
The advent of this remarkable invention is particularly timely given the United Arab Emirates’ role as the host of the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) this year. The UAE has long positioned itself as a champion of environmental sustainability, leveraging recycling as a primary strategy to manage the byproducts of human activity. However, the country also acknowledges the significant challenges to recycling adoption, from confusion over what materials are recyclable to the risk of contaminating recyclable batches with inappropriate items.
The Smart Trash Bin project responds to these challenges by automating the recycling process. Leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning, the system identifies the material type of each waste item, before a conveyor belt shuttles the waste to the appropriate bin. This automation effectively removes the onus of correct waste sorting from the population, simultaneously enhancing recycling efficiency and limiting human errors.
At its core, this project is a bold response to an increasingly pressing global challenge: the escalating volume of waste generated by the world’s growing population. As societies continue to operate largely on a linear “take, make, consume, and dispose” model, innovating new methods to circulate resources has become essential. The European Commission has warned that 14 critical raw materials for the industry are at risk of low supply within the next decade, emphasizing the criticality of reuse, recycling, and reduction of raw materials.
The Smart Trash Bin project disrupts conventional methods of recycling, focusing not on motivating individuals to dispose of recyclable material correctly, but rather on automating the process to eliminate the possibility of human error. This system leverages artificial intelligence, machine learning, and image processing to identify waste types and direct them into the appropriate bin.
The prototype features computer vision models capable of differentiating between various types of waste, a servo-based system for disposing of waste into the bin identified by the computer vision model, and is powered by solar cells for maximum sustainability. Additional features include sensors to detect different aspects of the waste and a compact computer to process data and make decisions.
The urgent need for advanced waste management solutions transcends borders, equally pressing in both developed and developing countries. With the advent of the Smart Trash Bin, the laborious process of manual waste sorting can become a thing of the past. The bin, using artificial intelligence and machine learning, can distinguish between recyclable and non-recyclable items.