Trash bins under close surveillance to improve waste sorting

The contents of the trash cans no longer hold any secrets. For two years, the French start-up Lixo has developed technology based on artificial intelligence (AI), capable of detecting in real time the slightest anomaly in waste sorting. An innovation which now makes it possible to secure waste collection and better promote recycling for around 45 local authorities in France. Before being able to sanction, one day, individuals who are bad sorters?

Nothing is less certain, according to Marjorie Darcet, co-founder of Lixo. “This is not the objective of our project and we will have to overcome certain legal obstacles to get there,” she explains to 20 minutes. In fact, sanctions can only apply to professionals provided that there is an issue defined by a sorting contract. A pizzeria that leaves pieces of pizza lying around in boxes sent for recycling, for example.

“Do education and not target this or that household”

“Technologically, it would already be possible to identify households that sort poorly,” admits Stéphane Caplier, recycling sales director at Veolia Hauts-de-France. In particular thanks to the coupling of data provided by AI with the RFID location (barcodes) of garbage containers.

But no community is considering this use, notably the metropolis of Lille (Mel), which was one of the first to adopt Lixo technology. Today, 11 of the 60 collection dump trucks are equipped with it, making it the largest fleet in France. The vice-president in charge of waste management also wants to be reassuring. “The data collected by AI during collections is and will remain anonymous,” points out Régis Cauche. It’s about teaching and not targeting this or that household. “.

The statistics are used today to “initiate mediation and awareness-raising actions for sorting ambassadors in neighborhoods where there is an excessive concentration of errors”, assures the elected official, who specifies that “the budget for domestic waste, ‘is 200 million euros per year.’

At least one anomaly on every second bin

Suffice to say that the subject is taken very seriously. The better sorting is carried out by residents, the more efficient the waste recovery center is in recycling, leading to an increase in revenue for the community. Lower taxes for users? We’ll see later.

“Good management of sorting at source is true that it is the crux of the matter because the financial gains can be considerable,” adds Pierre Bredar, specialist in international recycling trading. “Waste thrown in the wrong bin costs the community two to three times more,” insists Stéphane Caplier, at Veolia, public service delegate for the Lille metropolis.

However, in March, almost half of the 8,000 bins analyzed daily with the Lixo method contained at least one anomaly, which mainly concerned glass, cardboard and black plastic bags.

The scourge of nitrous oxide bottles

But there is another scourge that haunts waste collection manufacturers: the nitrous oxide bottle which, when it explodes, can cause significant damage. “Collection security is one of the first issues that encouraged Veolia and the Lille metropolis to adopt our technology,” remembers Marjorie Darcet, from Lixo.

A small sensor is installed above the hopper on eleven vehicles in the dump truck fleet at Esterra, waste collection manager in the Lille metropolis.– G. Durand

A technology which consists of fixing a small camera above the hopper of the dump truck. The sensor takes burst photos as each trash can is tipped. The images are transmitted in real time to a microcomputer located at the foot of the driver’s cabin. An image recognition algorithm then makes it possible to instantly identify the non-compliance of certain waste.

In a waste management and recovery industry that is still under-digitalized, the Lixo process represents a small revolution and is already developing in certain European countries such as Portugal, Germany and the United Kingdom. But it requires permanent technical innovations.

“A contract to equip vehicles in Canada required us to strengthen the cold resistance of sensors, for example,” notes Marjorie Darcet, who sees a great development opportunity in the North American market. “The Americans are around thirty years behind Europe in the field of recycling,” she notes. It’s a growing market. »

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