Although effective, waste management systems and procedures today can still be improved tremendously. Automating the waste management process can help businesses and local authorities manage large waste volumes more effectively. They seem to also contribute to lowering the costs associated with the whole process. Considering the number of industries where artificial intelligence and machine learning have found incredible applications, waste management and recycling couldn’t be missing from the equation.
We generate over 1 billion ton of waste every day, with numbers so high, manual recycling and waste management seems to be harder to tackle by the day. The context calls for machines and automated waste management and recycling processes. But how can AI help our society improve these parts? Well, we have more details in the following paragraphs.
AI and Smarter Sorting Systems
When implemented correctly in sorting facilities, AI can improve the process a lot. We mentioned previously the volumes of waste generated worldwide daily. We know the numbers, but it’s difficult to understand how much waste we generate. We can no longer expect traditional waste sorting and management systems to work in the given coordinates.
Although, in the present, we have waste sorting bins, needless to say, this isn’t the best solution. Human error or unwillingness can compromise the entire sorting process. Also, waste management and recycling plants find themselves in the same unpleasant situation when having to deal with incredible quantities of waste, daily. Manual sorting is no longer a viable solution.
Municipal recycling facilities (MRFs) identify the sorting process as the most difficult one. AI has the potential to help MRFs tackle the challenge without increased recycling costs sensitively.
By using the same technology like facial recognition, AI can train sorting machinery and equipment to differentiate between different waste. A similar technology might help municipalities reach incredible recycling rates while lowering costs.
In a context where China is restricting the waste import, countries all over the world struggle with sorting and recycling the waste they generate. In New Zealand, some recycling plants and businesses across different industries have found unexpected ways to reduce the volume of waste. We are discussing compressing balers. For now, the country is still able to manage its own waste. Used correctly, compressing balers reduce the space eaten up by waste after the sorting process is finished. But still, the sorting part is the most stringent issue municipalities and businesses all over the world struggle to tackle. Compressing balers are useful, but the sorting part still has to be done manually.
Here is where AI enters the discussion. Different solution providers have found that AI and ML have the capacity to understand differences between different materials and act accordingly when used in the sorting process.
Smart Bins and Compactors
In South Korea, on the other hand, cities are designed as smart cities, where recycling and waste management is handled by machines that use AI technologies. The city of Songdo was designed and built as a smart city. The most notable innovation was the implementation of tracking systems similar to RFID tags for different waste and bins. The tags on different bins match those on different waste, so waste is unlikely to reach the wrong bin. Once waste management companies collect these bins, they can establish the best methods they can use to dispose of the waste.
The same technology can be used in manufacturing facilities or by businesses in different industries. The waste sorting process will already be halfway tackled once the bins reach recycling plants. This takes us a step closer to smart bins and compactors.
Smart bin solution providers are already searching for fast fixes that will allow bins to recognize what type of waste is disposed of in them. Sensors and AI are the technologies which will be used. Although we still have to wait for sophisticated systems like these, with the technology we have today, we should expect to see smart bins of this kind in the near future.
Smart Waste Trucks
After developing smart sorting systems and smart bins, we can only dream about smart waste trucks. And once again, AI is here to work its magic. The middleman in the entire recycling equation should be just as equipped as the waste source and destination.
IoT and Ai applications will take rubbish bins in the future. By integrating sensors and interconnected devices on each truck, there will be created a city-wide system of intricate sensors and high-resolution cameras. They will help smart waste trucks identify the best routes to use. Besides, they will help truck drivers and waste management companies create better, more complex strategies. These may even include strategic planning for graffiti clean-up or detection of waste that has been left outside of bins.
Strategic planning and AI integration will help improve a process that has been widely debated and catalogued as inefficient, for ages.
A Circular Economy
But what will help our society tackle more efficiently waste management and recycling issues is a wider adoption of circular economy models. Waste management is essential for coming closer to this goal. Reducing waste and boosting the reuse-recycle paradigm is the answer to long-term positive environmental results. AI is also due to help with finding new manufacturing methods and technologies that might help in implementing a circular economy. Companies such as Philips already have adopted circular economy models in their manufacturing processes. All their products are designed and manufactured in mind with lowering waste and increasing recovery rates of parts and components on manufacturing plants.
AI has helped our society tremendously and the applications we can use the technology for are far from stopping here. Together with sensors, IoT technologies, and machine learning, we can use it to create more complex and effective methods and tools to reduce waste and recycle at a faster, more efficient pace.
Adopting circular economy patterns is also due to help reducing waste and to create a healthier and sustainable environment. Using our resources with the next generations in mind should be a priority.