AI and the Future of Waste Management

Sustainability Problem: Waste

The EPA estimated that Americans produced more than 254 million tons of waste in just 2013 alone.  Our current solutions in tackling this problem have been lackluster to say the least.  We either dump this waste into our 2000 active landfills, ship it to China, or the best option thus far…we recycle.  While recycling is a huge player in curbing landfill waste (87 million tons diverted in 2013), it’s important to note that it is a business.  If operating costs are too high for waste management companies, then the financial incentive to keep running these facilities drops, putting us right back to our dirty, rotten, methane producing square one.

Sustainability Technology: Artificial Intelligence Waste Sorter (ZenRobotics)

The only way to increase efficiency within the recycling facilities is to take advantage of smart technology, which means we need robots.  And not just any old robots, but ones that utilize artificial intelligence to sort through the variety of waste we produce.

The ZenRobotics Recycler is the world’s first AI powered robotics waste sorting system.  The beauty of this technology is that it’s faster, more flexible, and thus cost-efficient.  The machine has two arms (more can be added) and can pick up 4,000 pieces of waste per hour.  It works around the clock and provides 98% accuracy in sorting which makes it more reliable than its human colleague.

It can accomplish such a gargantuan task thanks to accurate sensors and smart software.  These two characteristics bring tremendous flexibility to the machine, allowing it to sort through various shapes/size, metals, different types of woods/minerals, plastics, and cardboard.  Additionally, it can be trained to identify new types of waste which is a huge plus especially when the market demand for certain materials is high.

Expenses are mitigated since the machine requires less energy, low levels of pre-processing, and little maintenance to function.  Labor, incineration, and landfill costs also drop, allowing the company to earn more profits which can be funneled into additional effective/efficient investments.  It also comes with measuring and monitoring capabilities which give companies the ability control and optimize their production.  Finally, since this innovation is scalable, it’s possible to install the machine closer to the source, reducing transportation time and costs.

Another plus is that due to its single-stream process, city residents will no longer need to pre-sort their recyclables and cities will be able to handle the commingled trash in an easier fashion.  It’s likely that recycling participation rates will go up if less efforts are required by city residents.

“These Maps Show How Many Landfills There Are In The U.S.” Fast Company, 8/19/2016, https://www.fastcompany.com/3062853/these-maps-show-how-much-of-the-us-is-covered-in-landfills
“Municipal Solid Waste” EPA, 3/29/2016 –https://archive.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/web/html/
 Zenrobotics – Company website  – https://zenrobotics.com/

 Stakeholders:

  • Waste management facilities looking for cost-effective solutions
  • Cities that want to meet their eco-goals and reduce waste disposal costs
  • Large companies striving to have zero-waste production facilities
  • Consumers who want to decrease their environmental footprint

Technology Implementation & Distribution:

Bring awareness and demonstrate the technology to potential waste management companies by leveraging real use cases of ZenRobotics from around the world (Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, US).

Engage with civic officials to showcase the potential for this innovation and provide a cost-benefit analysis to depict not only the environmental advantages but also the financial benefits for their city.

Ensure that the company can meet implementation demands in a seamless fashion and keep up communication with clients so feedback is received in a timely manner, allowing for software/hardware adjustments to be made fairly quickly.

Comment on the Extinguish Fire with Low Frequency Sound Waves blog:

What a great idea!  This technology can also be used by homeowners/renters to fight small house fires before they become very destructive/uncontrollable.  Financial losses will be significantly mitigated as fires can be constrained fairly quickly.  Water damage/ water use will also decrease since the resource will no longer be the only option to combat fires.  Should this innovation prove its worth and can be successfully commercialized, there are a plethora of benefits to many different stakeholders apart from the obvious ones.

Advertisements

One thought on “AI and the Future of Waste Management

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s