The half finished dashboard of InspectorTrash
Typical water bottle image from the camera ready for Google Vision
Three conflicting realities exist:
- We need to reduce our production of waste to save the environment.
- Humans are not willing to give up convenience or benefits to do it.
- Plenty of humans are lazy and not willing to do much more than the minimum (if even that).
This hackathon is no exception. The garbage cans are overflowing with recyclable bottles and cans while there are banana skins in the paper recycling and plastics in the compost.
Cities have typically taken the choice of gentle reminders, fines, or other appeals to individuals to change their ways. However, as shown in many other areas, encouraging personal responsibility to the level required is enormously difficult.
The result of this in waste management is people stuffing recycling bins with garbage when the nearby garbage can is full, recyclables tossed because the person does not want to carry them around, and piles and piles of recyclable and compostable materials shipped off to landfills every day.
We built an IoT framework for helping cities manage their public solid waste collection and better plan in exquisite detail where they place recycling and other waste collection facilities. The goal is to cheaply boost sustainability initatives in a painless way while gathering an enormous amount of data which could be useful for other purposes.
The framework can also be adapted in the future to inform cities about what kinds of things people are trying to recycle. One of the largest challenges with recycling is contamination from non recyclable materials. This could be used to identify the top contamination in each location to adjust signage or even provide different collection options.
What it does
InspectorTrash is a simple and cheap device that analyzes the contents of trash cans and stores data related to content material (plastic, paper, glass, compostable foods, etc...). The goal is to give cities a very detailed view of what their citizens are disposing of in public receptacles, to allow the city to adjust its waste management plans to suit the actual habits of the residents of the city.
How I built it
The device is built using an Arduino microcontroller, a cheap camera module (only 50 cents), a WiFi module for IoT and a small but long lasting power supply
Challenges I ran into
Challenge 1: We lost 2 members of the team, we started with 4 members and ended up completing the hackathon with 2 members. Challenge 2: Could not get a color image from the camera module (we know the camera module is color capable). Challenge 3: Communication port being constantly busy since the camera reads a constant stream of data thus preventing the WiFi module from sending data. Challenge 4: Difficulty of setting up Google Vision API. The key provided by the free trial was not valid and resulted in invalid credentials
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
Getting the first successful image from the camera module was a great accomplishment.
What I learned
Learned the technology behind VGA cameras, IoT technology,
What's next for InspectorTrash
Why we called it InspectorTrash
This is not just a data display tool, but meant as a tool for someone with an eye for detail and an inquisitive mind to dramatically increase the amount of waste intercepted on its way to the landfill.