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Beyond the bin

How smart recycling can help zoo visitors save the planet

People want to be greener. It's not always obvious what can be recycled, especially if you're on a fun day out. 

At Marwell Zoo, visitors want to study the animals, not the recycling bins. But if they throw rubbish in the wrong bin, or if it’s soiled, then recycling companies can decide the whole binload is contaminated. At the same time, the government is nudging businesses like Marwell to take action, imposing additional taxes unless they can reduce the amount of waste they send to landfill.

So four IBM interns worked with Marwell to create "Wastenet." Their innovative waste classification system can be anyone’s “bin assistant.” Hold up an item to a scanner by the recycling bin, or the camera of your mobile phone, and an image classifier uses IBM Watson artificial intelligence to tell you which bin to put it in.

The prototype uses a combination of IBM technology for visual recognition, machine learning, and cloud computing. It helps visitors decide which bin to use for their waste, and provides Marwell staff with an overview of recycling across the whole site.

As well as the tech for bins and a mobile phone app, Wastenet combines the data in the IBM Cloud to show Marwell how visitors are using bins right across the site.

The four developers were participants in “Extreme Blue,” IBM's premier summer internship scheme that’s now in its twentieth year. Four different teams are given three months to design, architect, develop, and test an innovative new product for an IBM client. 

Come and test their prototype for yourself at the Festival. Bin there, done that.


IBM UK Lab Campus, Hursley,
Winchester, Hampshire,
SO21 2JN
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