A.R.T. sorts your recyclables for you

[Yuhin Wu] wrote in to let us know about the Automated Recycling Sorter that was built with a group of classmates at the University of Toronto. They entered it the school’s student design contest and we’re happy to report that it took first place.

The angled sled has been designed to separate glass, plastic, and metal containers. The first sorting happens at the intake area. A set of moment arms are used to weed out the glass bottles. Since there are several of them in a row, a larger and heavier plastic container will not be falsely sorted and the same goes for smaller glass bottles.

With the glass out of the mix the team goes on to separate metal and plastic. An Arduino was used for this purpose. It senses an electrical disturbance caused by a metal can passing through the chute and actuates a trap door to sort it. Plastic has no effect on this sensor and slides past the trap to its own sorting bin.

Don’t miss both demo videos which we’ve included after the break.

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Swap-O-Matic: an automat with recycling in mind

The Swap-O-Matic is vending machine built for recycling, not consuming. Instead of feeding money into the machine, you can get an item out of the machine by swapping it for something you don’t need anymore. It’s a great concept with a great retro design, probably influenced by the age of the automat.

[Lina Fenequito] and [Rick Cassidy] built the Swap-O-Matic around the time [Lina] was getting her MFA. The build was in Wired in 2005, but the project has been updated since then and has a new home at LaunchPad in Brooklyn, NY. The first version used a separate computer next to the machine that gave out combinations to locks on the doors. It looks like the new version has been improved with an integrated touchscreen and computer-activated locks leaving [Lina] and [Rick] with a very clean build.

It’s a great idea if you have a relatively homogeneous population with similar interests, so we expect to see some of these popping up at a few hackerspaces. Check out the Swap-O-Matic promo video after the break.

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Can crusher keeps track of your recycling efforts


Instructables user [MRHint] was inspired by his friends’ recycling efforts, and decided to start recycling as well. The one thing he noticed was that they typically had no idea how many cans they had stored up, nor how much their bags of cans weigh. He figured that he could somewhat automate the crushing process while keeping an accurate can count using a handful of electronics and some elbow grease.

He started by designing a can crushing rig that would use an old windshield wiper motor he had sitting around the house. The motor is connected to a pulley, which drives a set of threaded rods connected to his movable crushing panel. When the motor is started, the panel is drawn against a stationary board, crushing the can.[MRHint] also had an unused Arduino hanging around, so he used it to control the crusher as well as keep track of how many times the crusher had been run.

From what we hear the whole setup works pretty well, but as with any project he sees plenty of room for improvement. Future changes may include a more powerful motor and a chain/sprocket setup in place of the belt and pulley he currently uses. Do you have any other suggestions for [MRHint]? Let us know in the comments.

PCB parts salvaging made easy


Take a moment to think about how many old or damaged computer motherboards you have tossed away over the years. Sure we try to repurpose everything we can, but reclaiming electronic components from complex devices can be overly time consuming if you don’t have the proper means of doing so.

Ideally, if we were to try removing components from a motherboard, an old stove or an unused toaster oven would be great. If you didn’t have either item at your disposal, you could always attack the board with a soldering iron and some braid – but who has the time for that?

[Giorgos Lazaridis] over at PCBHeaven put together a quick video demonstrating his favorite technique for salvaging components after a motherboard has outlived its usefulness. Using a 2000W heat gun, a few hand tools, and couple of metal pans, he had the entire board stripped bare in about 30 minutes time. He talks about some of the best parts he has discovered while salvaging and points out a few hard-to-find items that can be easily obtained by tearing down a motherboard.

Sure his process might not be as easy as inverting a PCB in an oven, but his method is cheap, portable, and takes up very little space.

Keep reading to see [Giorgos’] video demonstration and don’t forget to check out some of the other cool stuff he has done in the past, such as his temperature-controlled soldering station, this acrylic bender, or this bench top function generator.

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Solar-powered junkbot


Instructables user [martzsam] recently built a simple robot using miscellaneous junk he found around his house. The first parts he scrounged up were a pair of 1.5v electric motors and some wire scraps, after which, he went to work on an old garden light. He detailed how to carefully remove the light’s solar panel as well as the charging circuit, which he used to power his robot. The pieces were mounted on some old erector set parts after a bit of rewiring, then the bot was set in motion. [martzsam] also mentions that he tweaked the solar panel’s charging circuit and battery to run the motors at half speed until light is shone on the panel, at which point the robot runs at full speed.

This project would be great to do with kids as it teaches the concepts of re-purposing common household items as well as allows them to use their imagination in designing a fun, yet simple robot. Gather up some old junk and your kids/nieces/nephews and get going!

Continue reading to see a quick video of the robot in action.

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Recyclebot digests milk jugs to feed MakerBot

The old saying, “garbage in, garbage out” may need to be re-evaluated. Students at Victoria University of Wellington are developing a machine that recycles old milk jugs, extruding an HDPE plastic filament that can then be fed into a MakerBot for 3D printing.

The process involves grinding the plastic into small pieces, then pressing these through a heater and extruder plate to produce a continuous bead of the proper diameter for the MakerBot. Nichrome wire — the stuff of hair dryers and toasters — forms the heating element, and this must be regulated within a specific temperature range for different plastics. The initial grinder design is hand-cranked, but they are working toward a fully automated system. It appears that the machine could also recycle old MakerBot output, provided the grinder has sufficient torque.

So one man’s trash really is another man’s treasure. We envision a future of crazy-haired makers rooting through their neighbors’ garbage, feeding their Recyclebots’ hoppers “Mr. Fusion” style.

The glass recycling game


Operating under the premise that glass bottles were not being recycled as much as plastic or aluminum because there’s no payment for the effort, the team at The Fun Theory set out to add a non-monetary incentive. Here is the fruit of their efforts, the Bottle Bank Arcade. Now recycling glass bottles comes with a bit of a game.

A light flashes above one of the holes in the recycling bin and then rewards points if a bottle is inserted there quickly enough. This Simon says type concept proved incredibly popular in the video embedded after the break. We would image some of the kids in the video made their parents haul them home and back with some empties so they could play.

In one evening, this modified bottle bank was used over 100 times, while a nearby low-tech repository was used just twice. This is a great way to use some tech knowledge, a love of hacking, and desire to spread joy in order to make the neighborhood more fun and help increase the amount of trash that ends up being recycled. This is the same team that put together the musical subway steps, we hope they keep this trend going!

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