Oscar is a trash-sorting system with a 32-inch display and AI-powered camera that recognizes the items in your hand and tells you how to properly dispose of them. Approach with a Thai noodle box, for example, and it will tell you to throw the remaining food into compost and put the box in the trash. Succeed in sorting your garbage and Oscar can say "Good job!," shower the screen with confetti, and share a QR code for some sort of perk, like a movie ticket or food discount. Get it wrong and Oscar can be a real grouch, making sounds of disapproval and displaying a dark red screen with a sign that calls you out for the mistake. Oscar was created by Intuitive AI, a startup with plans to sell its solution to corporate social responsibility teams and property managers in busy settings such as airports, universities, and large corporate campuses.
This story was originally published by Yale Environment 360 and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. It has been a year since China jammed the works of recycling programs around the world by essentially shutting down what had been the industry's biggest market. China's "National Sword" policy, enacted in January 2018, banned the import of most plastics and other materials headed for that nation's recycling processors, which had handled nearly half of the world's recyclable waste for the past quarter century. The move was an effort to halt a deluge of soiled and contaminated materials that was overwhelming Chinese processing facilities and leaving the country with yet another environmental problem--and this one not of its own making. In the year since, China's plastics imports have plummeted by 99 percent, leading to a major global shift in where and how materials tossed in the recycling bin are being processed.
When Hani Darwish rolled down his car window hoping to cool off from Beirut's hot afternoon, he was instantly met with the sickly sweet rotting smell of the Lebanese capital's newest inhabitant: uncollected garbage. Despite the stench, Darwish braved the deadlocked traffic and drove his Uber van around the city for four hours Friday, Earth Day, so he could collect recyclable items and help fix Lebanon's trash crisis. It's been nearly a year since the start of Lebanon's trash crisis, the result of a political disagreement that saw the capital's biggest landfill close, leaving garbage to plague the country. One solution was to promote more recycling, but for many living in Lebanon separating one's trash is a luxury they cannot afford. Driving bags of plastic and paper to one of the dozens of recycling centers is a trip that most people in Lebanon do not think is worth the hassle of traffic.
Apple's new robot, Liam, is designed to disassemble iPhones for recycling purposes. Meet Liam, an Apple robot designed to take apart 1.2 million iPhones a year. Mashable reporter Samantha Murphy Kelly got a first look at the robot at Apple's headquarters. It has 29 arms and it was an Apple secret for three years. "Liam is programmed to carefully disassemble the many pieces of returned iPhones, such as SIM card trays, screws, batteries and cameras, by removing components bit by bit so they'll all be easier to recycle.
Recycling facilities use robotic sorting stations and object-recognition technology to identify and put garbage in its proper place. Filled with intricate mazes of high-speed conveyor belts carrying yesterday's garbage, high-tech recycling centers use sophisticated sensors to sort plastic from paper from aluminum. While this technology may streamline sorting, it's not smart or nimble enough to finish the job. Behind the scenes, recycling workers continue to sort the materials, making sure cereal boxes don't mix with soda cans. But the future of smart recycling is looking brighter.