How a fleet of smart technology recycling trucks could help minimize waste

August 25, 2023, May 2023

Recycling collection is going high-tech with a smart system of innovative trucks, automation and artificial intelligence (AI) that is focused on increasing the amount of recovered materials and cutting contamination by analyzing where the process begins – your curbside.

WM, North America’s largest recycler of post-consumer materials, has equipped thousands of its recycling collection trucks across the US and Canada with Smart TruckSM technology, creating what are essentially rolling data centers that service neighborhoods and gain critical insight to identify recycling challenges and boost efficiency.

According to the most updated statistics from the US Environmental Protection Agency, more than 69 million tons of materials were recycled in 2018, and experts say increasing consumer understanding of how and what to recycle could provide an added boost. The Recycling Partnership, a non-governmental organization that is committed to advancing a circular economy by building a better recycling system, found that when shown real-world packaging, 70% of survey respondents admit to being confused about how to recycle correctly.

“It comes down to clarity,” said Brent Bell, vice president of recycling, WM. “With regulations and standards varying from community to community, it can be difficult to determine what can and cannot go in the recycling bins. At WM, we are using technology to help remove the guesswork and educate our customers, so more materials can be captured and used again.”

Here’s how Smart TruckSM works: When WM trucks collect recyclables from customer bins, cameras and sensors scan the materials and capture real-time video of the contents. The images are sent to a centralized automated system where AI quickly identifies common service challenges like overfilled containers, bins not placed out for service, and recycling contamination — where food waste or other non-recyclable materials are included in the bins.

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