Automate Sorting Your Trash With Some Healthy Machine Learning

Sorting trash into the right categories is pretty much a daily bother. Who hasn’t stood there in front of the two, three, five or more bins (depending on your area and country), pondering which bin it should go into? [Alvaro Ferrán Cifuentes]’s SeparAItor project is a proof of concept robot that uses a robotic sorting tray and a camera setup that aims to identify and sort trash that is put into the sorting tray.

The hardware consists of a sorting tray mounted to the top of a Bluetooth-connected pan and tilt platform. The platform communicates with the rest of the system, which uses a camera and OpenCV to obtain the image data, and a Keras-based back-end which implements a deep learning neural network in Python.

Training of the system was performed by using self-made photos of the items that would need to be sorted as these would most closely match real-life conditions. After getting good enough recognition results, the system was put together, with a motion detection feature added to respond when a new item was tossed into the tray. The system will then attempt to identify the item, categorize it, and instruct the platform to rotate to the correct orientation before tilting and dropping it into the appropriate bin. See the embedded video after the break for the system in action.

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first trash-sorting robot to grace the pages of Hackaday. Potentially concepts like these, that rely on automation and machine vision, could one day be deployed on a large scale to help reduce how much recyclable material end up in landfills.

9 thoughts on “Automate Sorting Your Trash With Some Healthy Machine Learning

  1. Nice! Makes one wonder why our council has such a hard time of it.

    Our council (amongst other stupidities) apparently can’t recycle black plastic food trays (as they can’t spot them on the black conveyor belt? That seems to be the best explanation I’ve had!). The brown cardboard tray on this overcomes that. But does it give it a similar blindness to corrugated card?

    Our council for years could recycle any plastic that’s bottle-shaped, but can’t recycle the same plastic in other shapes. They’ve recently expanded to support yoghurt pots and clear food trays, but their recycling is still limited by shape not chemistry.
    And despite sharing the recycling facilities with the adjacent council, they can’t handle other items that other councils can handle.

  2. Recycling is and has been a boondogle.
    The asian countries have refused to take our trash, and the rag pickers steal the aluminum.
    Who will step up and stop this madness?
    Return our money.. Stop this useless monkey motion.

  3. Here the city updates the requirements every year but printing them out and sticking them up sure beats using the list to repeatedly perform annual manual updates to a machine designed to “assist telling me” what the list from the city tells me to do with each different item.

    A machine to assist in such a way is, though, a very nice hack exercise. In this case it even includes the required repetition of the hacking, (if you live here), as any exercise does. Therefore I approve.

    Great idea, but it just won’t work out here.

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