Artificial Intelligence (AI)

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How can Artificial Intelligence (AI) help with recycling?

AI in it’s simplest form involves using computers to do the things that traditionally require human intelligence. This is achieved by creating algorithms to classify, analyse and draw predictions from data. However, unlike normal computer programmes AI involves acting on data, learning from new data, and improving over time.

AI powered robots are now being used and developed to identify and sort waste for recycling as they can do this at much faster rate than humans and also improve safety. This type of low paid, repetitive and dirty work is perfect for AI robotics.

And, as our problem with waste grows so does the demand for AI powered sorting machines to deal with it.

Companies across the UK are now investing in the technology with one well known large national company recently setting up it’s own recycling plant and using a machine it has developed to sort the plastic waste by colour. By sorting the plastics by colour this makes it easier to sell and they can retain the white plastic for use in their own manufacturing process.

There are also other companies using machines that can identify different objects by using scanners to measure each object’s surface structure, shape and material composition, and can be “taught” to recognise new materials making it a flexible solution.

For information on other potential AI solutions check out the website 

Why do we need AI powered robots to help with recycling?

AI can provide us with waste sorting solutions but why do we need them. As I’ve mentioned before the actual process can be dirty, repetitive and dangerous. It can be difficult to find people who want to carry out these type of jobs and our problem with waste is growing and we need to find innovative solutions to deal with it.

The facts around waste in the UK is staggering:

  • In the UK almost two-thirds of plastic that could be recycled is in fact sent to landfill or incinerated, according to new research. With most families throwing away about 40kg of plastic per year, which could otherwise be recycled.
  • Of the 1.5m tonnes of recyclable plastic waste used by consumers in Britain in 2015 only 500,000 tonnes was recycled, according to the figures compiled by Co-op from the Recoup UK Household Plastics Collection survey.
  • 70% less energy is required to recycle paper compared with making it from raw materials.
  • Up to 60% of the rubbish that ends up in the dustbin could be recycled.
  • The unreleased energy contained in the average dustbin each year could power a television for 5,000 hours.
  • Up to 80% of a vehicle can be recycled.
  • Recycling is an excellent way of saving energy and conserving the environment. And, we should be doing everything we can to keep it out of landfill as Plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose.

Did you know that:

  • 1 recycled tin can would save enough energy to power a television for 3 hours.
  • 1 recycled glass bottle would save enough energy to power a computer for 25 minutes.
  • 1 recycled plastic bottle would save enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 3 hours.

For more information check out my Blog – Recycling at Home

Is AI Robotic Waste Sorting the answer to our recycling problem?

Recycling involves a number of steps with the first step being to separate the mixed recyclables from one another—a task that AI-enabled robots are achieving with a growing level of accuracy. The article How robots are revolutionising recycling examines this in more depth.  However, it is clear to see that AI has a place in the future of our waste recycling solution.  Albeit there are still a number of Pros and Cons to weigh up when considering it as a solution.

The advantages to AI robotic sorting are:

  • Quicker sorting – robots can be up to twice as fast as humans
  • Quality control – robots are quicker and more precise
  • Improved knowledge – AI powered robots are continually learning
  • Safety – it’s safer for robots to mechanically sort through waste

And, although there are many advantages to AI robotics there are also disadvantages; with the main one currently being cost. AI powered robotics aren’t cheap.

The AI robotics revolution has started and I believe it’s definitely the future of recyclin

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4 thoughts on “How Artificial Intelligence (AI) Can Help Recycling”

  1. This sounds like a great solution for recycling. I can see where I live how a lot of the residents in our block of flats don’t use our communal recycling bins properly. He have shared food waste, recycling and rubbish bins and quite often I will go down and see how many people have just thrown their recyclable items into the normal rubbish bins.

  2. I think using AI in this way would be hugely beneficial.

    We are very good recyclers in our house but I do know that things get missed. I love going to the tip and seeing how much my county recycles each month. We are all doing so much but there is always room for more x

  3. My partner works in AI and it truly is amazing just how much it is making change on all fronts including environmental. The truth is that the technology being deployed is actually a lot more advanced than we realise!

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