February 01, 2017

How can we improve recycling solutions using sensors? #makezurich

At a #makezurich event the other day at Impact Hub Zürich, I had a fascinating talk with a couple of people from India. They had some brilliant ideas, I think, related to recycling. I understood that they wanted to measure, for example, when containers at the recycling spaces / "Sammelstellen" are ready to be picked up. During a short brainstorming session right in front of boxes with different sensors in one of the workshop rooms at the event space, we ping-ponged a few ideas about what sensors would be relevant to use for the task.

One person had an idea to use some kind of a light sensor that measures when things, that people put in the containers, have reached the top of the containers - meaning that the light from one side of a container to the other side of the container would be permanently interrupted / blocked. Another had an idea to use a sensor measuring weight. As we chatted about this idea, we talked about that that would probably work quite well for glass. However, for metal recycling, such a sensor would probably not be optimal, as different types of metal have different weight.

Reflecting on this little talk about ideas, my thoughts are that the need to do something in this recycling area / field is there. In other words, I would think that with a smart sensor solution / Internet of Things solution, the number of times that trucks drive through cities every week to empty containers could be reduced. That could free up time for recycling professionals to do / learn about other things that create value for people - and thereby increase the quality of life for everyone.

When I take my reflections around experiences I have had with recycling in Zürich a little further, I realize that there is a relatively large need to design solutions that help make it easier for people to recycle things. In this regard, I recall that when I moved to Zürich in 2006, it took me quite some time to find out where and when to recycle what in which ways. Some examples:

  1. At supermarkets, people can recycle, for example, PET bottles and batteries in permanent location containers. 
  2. At some locations, people can recycle, for example, glass and metal products in permanent location containers. 
  3. At other locations, people can recycle shoes and clothes - put in a bag - in permanent location containers. 
  4. Recycling of paper happens every 2 weeks. To find out when to bring paper, you want to recycle, to a street where it is picked up, go to this link
  5. Recycling of cardboard happens once a month. To find out when to bring cardboard, you want to recycle, to a street where it is picked up, go to this linkThe cord / string to use for binding paper or cardboard together, you can buy at a supermarket. 
  6. To recycle, for example, broken stones or glas materials / products and metal materials / products, that are larger than what can go into the containers mentioned at # 2, go to this link and click "Cargo-tram". There, you can read at which tram stations to go in order to recycle what you need to recycle. Be aware that you need to walk to the "Cargo-tram" recycling stations with things you want to recycle.
  7. To recycle, for example, cables and other electronic products, go to this link and click "E-tram". It is also possible to hand in electronic products to be recycled at shops that sell that sell electronic products.

Examples of recycling solutions / recycling stations / "Sammelstellen":







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