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I am thinking about a project at my university for doing on-site waste sorting. The problem with having one waste bin for recyclables, compost and landfill and doing the sorting at a facility, is that the organic materials can destroy paper and other recyclable materials.

I have searched quite a bit but all of the robotic solutions available that I have found are for facilities. I am looking for a robotic bin to be deployed in replacement of the traditional waste and recycling bin.

The budget is approximately $1000.

  • $1000 -- is that materials cost only, or does it include assembly and maintenance costs?: materials and assembly not maintenance for all 4 bins plus robotic sorter
  • it must be bin-sized (whatever that means): let's say 3 ft (height) x 2 ft (length) x 2 ft (width) per bin and there are 4 bins -- recycle paper, recycle plastic, compost, landfill
  • Do you have weight requirements so the consumer can move the bin to the curb, or are you planning to have the robot separate the materials into other, mobile, bins?: There are no weight requirements. We should be able to use a forklift to move it. What would be nice is to have a single waste entry hole which customers use. The device should internally sort the waste into the 4 bins listed above. The entry hole and sorter should be 1 ft (height) x 8 ft (length) x 2 ft (width) to fit directly on top of the set of 4 adjacent bins.
  • What power is available?: It can be plugged into a wall outlet (in case there is one nearby) but should also be able to use a rechargeable battery (in case there isn't).
  • What about environmental concerns, especially if this is to be located outside? Don't forget noise constraints and safety concerns.: The whole point of this is to reduce waste and help the environment. Assume the noise it can make can be as loud as a heater, AC unit, or fan. The entire system should be one box with one waste entry hole -- the rest should be blackbox-ed, so it should be safe.
  • And, most importantly, what characteristics of the materials are you planning to use for doing the actual sorting?: the shorter should be able to detect pure recyclable plastic vs recyclable paper vs organic/food material vs pure waste using either computer vision or chemical techniques or both.
  • What size requirements are there for the products themselves?: The waste whole should be .75 ft x .75 ft so assume the waste is less than .75 ft^3
  • For example, how to detect organic garbage from non-organic (and do it many times a day without human intervention to "resupply chemicals") can be a topic of research that could take a couple of years itself: Yes this is a good point. However, my question is more focused on whether it's possible to use the robots already commercially available today to solve this problem.

I read through how to ask but so here is my specific question: Is there a commercially available robot today that does or can be retro-fitted to do this on-site waste sorting?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by 50k4, CroCo, Bence Kaulics, mactro, Ben Nov 16 '16 at 1:32

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Robotics Govinda Dasu, but I'm afraid that Unbounded Design Questions are off-topic because there are many ways to solve any given design problem. We prefer practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face, so questions which ask for a list of approaches or a subjective recommendation on a method (for how to build something, how to accomplish something, what something is capable of, etc.) are off-topic. Please take a look at How to Ask & tour for more information on how stack exchange works. $\endgroup$ – Mark Booth Nov 16 '16 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ I'm going to edit it as I mentioned below $\endgroup$ – Gobi Dasu Nov 16 '16 at 21:38
  • $\begingroup$ I will need a bit more time, as I'm requesting the answers to the questions. $\endgroup$ – Gobi Dasu Nov 17 '16 at 8:22
  • $\begingroup$ Hi guys, maybe I should rephrase my question as: Are there any existing robotic solutions to this problem or can some existing robot be programmed to do this job? I'm pretty sure we don't have the resources to build our own robot from scratch-- maybe we might have resources to program one. Let me know if this rephrasing would still allow my question to be valid on this site. $\endgroup$ – Gobi Dasu Nov 17 '16 at 8:26
  • $\begingroup$ If you re-worded your question as you describe, it still sounds to me as if the answers would be mostly opinion-based. You would end up with a lot of "it depends," which isn't really the type of question-and-answer this site is looking for. As @MarkBooth mentions in another comment, the How to Ask and tour links might help you with the types of questions that folks at this site can help with. $\endgroup$ – SteveO Nov 17 '16 at 22:08
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A robotics student would attach a manipulator on the bin and see what they can get done. A good roboticist wouldn't even consider whether or not robotics was a good solution until the problem's requirements were well-defined. You kind of have two requirements already: the cost must be less than $300 (is that materials cost only, or does it include assembly and maintenance costs?), and it must be bin-sized (whatever that means). Do you have weight requirements so the consumer can move the bin to the curb, or are you planning to have the robot separate the materials into other, mobile, bins? What power is available? What about environmental concerns, especially if this is to be located outside? Don't forget noise constraints and safety concerns. And, most importantly, what characteristics of the materials are you planning to use for doing the actual sorting? What size requirements are there for the products themselves? You need to be able to sense the characteristics, manage the span of sizes and shapes, and maneuver the materials to their destinations.

In summary, start by defining the problem and the design constraints before you decide that robotics is the solution.

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  • $\begingroup$ I will edit my answer soon to answer these questions. $\endgroup$ – Gobi Dasu Nov 15 '16 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ I have edited the answer based on the feedback. $\endgroup$ – Gobi Dasu Nov 21 '16 at 23:11
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There are a lot of unknowns to this problem, as SteveO has mentioned in an answer. My suggestion is to start inventing missing functionalities one by one and leave the assembly into a complete product for when all that is done. For example, how to detect organic garbage from non-organic (and do it many times a day without human intervention to "resupply chemicals") can be a topic of research that could take a couple of years itself.

Doing this, you can focus on solving the core of each problem (detecting a specific kind of garbage, or handling variable-sized and variable-consistency objects) without bothering with complexities of other problems. When you have each problem solved, you can start piecing things together and make a product.

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  • $\begingroup$ I have edited the answer based on the feedback. $\endgroup$ – Gobi Dasu Nov 21 '16 at 23:11

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