Alipay Unveils AI-Powered Recycling Bin That Sorts Your Waste for You

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During the Apsara Conference in Hangzhou, Alipay unveiled its take on a smart recycling bin. The bin can automatically identify and sort trash, identifying plastic bottles, aluminum cans and glass bottles, among other things. The smart bin adopts a trash identification technology first introduced for industrial uses by Ant Financial. By adopting this technology, the smart recycling bin can identify the materials of different types of waste and sort them with the aid of AI algorithms and technologies like computer vision, speech assistant, and environmental protection knowledge bases.

This white, spherical-shaped device is divided into two parts, the front is a recycling receptacle and the rear is the main storage area. A reporter places a bottle into the recycling receptacle, and the bottle was quickly identified it as a “plastic bottle” and sorted it to the rear blue storage section. The reporter then disposed of a can into the device, which was also quickly identified it as an “aluminum can” and put it into the orange storage area. Alipay said that the device integrates several in-house technologies. First, the built-in camera takes pictures of the item thrown into the device. Then the item is identified by one of several different algorithms. Finally, the trash is sorted into corresponding storage areas by intelligent actuators. As an added bonus, virtual green energy points are added to the Alipay accounts of the individuals who dispose of garbage this way, encouraging the public to use the devices to play their part in improving public welfare.

It is reported that the trash sorting applet launched by Alipay in July this year has been able to identify more than 11,000 types of trash. This smart bin on display is developed based on the applet. The bin has higher accuracy and is ready for mass production to meet market demands. A source from Alipay said that bottles of different materials can be automatically separated and sorted. Market research shows that bottles thrown by shoppers account for the highest proportion of the garbage collected in shopping malls. In addition, bottles made of different materials usually need to be re-sorted at the garbage transfer station before being recycled. The smart recycling bin intelligently sorts and stores recyclable trash, which can improve the recoverable rate and solve the problems of disposing of recyclable trash in large cities.

Alipay said that the device is expected to implement facial recognition to identify the individuals who are disposing trash. Every time a person disposes trash using the device, the person will be rewarded coupons from nearby stores. The image recognition technology can be provided to industry partners. Professional equipment produced can be placed in large waste processing factories to improve industrial efficiency. For example, many enterprises outside China have already established large centers for intelligently sorting and processing garbage.

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