Plastic is a huge part of our daily lives. Our food is wrapped in it, we use it in our cars, and we even brush our teeth with it. While we would all like to help do our part, figuring out which bin to put your waste in can be difficult.
As a result of this and laziness, a staggering 91% of plastic still goes unrecycled. In many waste facilities, there are people who are hired to pick out the recyclable material, but just with the sheer amount of bulk it is hard to do it efficiently.
The solution? A robot named Clarke. It sorts recyclable waste with 90% accuracy, and is about 50% faster than a human would be at doing the same job while reducing cost by 50%.
Clarke has been programmed to recognize what is recyclable and what is not. It is even able to tell the differences between No. 1 and No. 2 plastics, cardboard, and cartons. It uses a camera and light to scan the garbage and use its robotic arm with suction cups to pick out what is recyclable. It separate recyclable and non-recyclable from each other so that they can be more properly dealt with. It is able to sort with about 90% accuracy, which helps a lot of otherwise fine recyclables from ending up in landfills. In the first quarter of 2017 it was able to sort through 50,000 pounds of garbage. The ultimate goal with Clarke is to be able to organize everything that’s recyclable and even tell the difference between types of containers, such as recognizing the difference from a Pepsi bottle and a Gatorade bottle.
Clarke is capable of recognizing and picking out an item about 60 items per minute, whereas t’s human counterparts are only able to achieve 40 items per minute on average. Doing the same work quicker means more can be done in the same amount of time, which means more profit. Since the robot doesn’t have as many costs associated with it as a human does, it performs the task much cheaper, which also means more profit.
Improving robots like Clarke could revolutionize the world. We could maximize our recycling abilities and even minimize the public’s effort to make it happen by having one bin for everything!
Eric Cawley is an occasional blogger for Gary Stringham & Associates. Gary provides consulting and expert witness services in embedded systems such as robotics. Feel free to contact Gary at 208-939-6984.