AI deployed in streamlining domestic waste sorting in China

epa01039170 Waste collectors rummage through plastic bottles collected for recycling in an alley in Beijing, China, 15 June 2007. With an underdeveloped domestic petrochemical industry China has come to depend heavily on recycling plastics for many products from toys to fleece clothing. EPA/ADRIAN BRADSHAW

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Waste sorting is becoming less of a burden in China, especially with artificial intelligence helping streamline the process.

Shanghai enacted its compulsory waste sorting law on July 1, and announced a plan to expand AI’s application in trash sorting as part of the city’s attempt to become a national and global leader in the technology.

Shanghai, host of the 2019 World Artificial Intelligence Conference from Aug 29-31, announced the application scenario of AI-powered autonomous waste sorting on July 2 along with the expansion of 27 other new AI applications.

Trash bins that use AI to automatically sort and properly organize garbage have been set up in Shanghai’s AIsland, a dedicated hub for AI innovation and application in Zhangjiang Science and Technology City, Pudong New Area. Established in May, the 66,000-square-meter hub is the first of its kind nationwide.

According to the scenario detailed in Shanghai Chengtou Holding Co’s “application of AI technology in the classification of domestic waste”, trash cans will eventually be able to distinguish between various kinds of waste and alarm users if they sort trash incorrectly. Garbage trucks will be able to identify different trash cans and process them accordingly. In waste disposal transfer stations, robots will collect recyclable trash and put it into recycling devices after inspecting it. Residents can also use apps to command robots to collect their trash.

Tao Junjie, director of Shanghai Chengtou’s department of science, technology and information, said the company currently handles final disposal of waste.

“Improper disposal by households brings challenges to our final disposal. We hope AI can help improve waste sorting in the very beginning of trash disposal,” Tao told Shanghaibased newspaper Jiefang Daily.

Jin Lei, founder of Alpheus Intelligence & IOT Technology Co in Kunshan, Jiangsu province, a company dedicated to AI-assisted waste sorting solutions, considered AI applications in the field as feasible to help China deal with its heaping trash challenge.

“Trash sorting is imperative in China. People are taking action but it will take quite a while for the culture to set in. We need AI to accelerate the process because we can’t wait,” Jin said.

In addition to waste sorting, the 28 new scenarios recently announced by Shanghai also cover many other fields such as smart buildings, smart businesses, smart driving and other scenarios that focus on tackling hard technological issues.

Officials said the scenarios will help create a comprehensive AI application cluster in Shanghai and the city will collect solutions from global AI companies to solve problems.

Wu Jincheng, chairman of the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatization, said the city will strive to open more application scenarios and encourage the latest achievements in AI.

With rich application scenarios, Shanghai has been vigorously promoting the development of AI in recent years, attracting industry leaders like Microsoft, IBM and Alibaba.

The city is eyeing a global AI hub with plans to expand the scale of its industry.

From China Daily Print Edition

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