The University of Massachusetts at Amherst is piloting an AI-based recycling program. UMass is working with robotics company rStream on the pilot, which will test the AI’s ability to identify what is going into the waste stream in real time.
“The big problem in recycling is people just don’t put stuff in the right bin,” said rStream co-founder Ian Goodine, in a statement. “The world rStream wants to make is one where consumers put everything in a single bin, and automation does the rest.”
Goodine started the company during his masters program at UMass with fellow alumni Ethan Walko. The two started looking into waste solutions in 2020—they started with the goal of using AI powered robots to sort recycling from trash.
Now, with the current pilot, which is dubbed AuditPRO, the pair are one step closer to achieving that goal.
“It tests rStream’s artificial intelligence and will identify in real time what goes into the waste stream. These data reports will provide feedback to the sustainability team at UMass which can be used to inform waste reduction efforts,” said Walko.
The end goal, according to Goodine, is to use robotics to sort waste. This pilot is the first step to testing out the AI, which Goodine calls the “brain” of the robot.
Sustainability Director of Auxiliary Enterprises, Kathy Wicks, added that the pilot will provide data that the university can use to inform their waste reduction strategies. It also simplifies the process of a waste audit.
“Currently, and historically, waste audits have been messy and cumbersome. They consist of emptying out a dumpster and sorting it. And UMass has done that,” she said. “The beauty of the AuditPRO system is that it’s happening in real-time, and it happens without the mess, the labor or the space.”