Recycling app uses AI to identify rubbish

A new app is set to help Australians answer the question:
A new app is set to help Australians answer the question: "What bin do I put this in?'"

A new app will use artificial intelligence to help Australians work out if their rubbish can be recycled.

Recycle Mate is designed to end widespread confusion about what goes into which coloured bin.

"A lot that you think is recyclable is not and a lot that you think can't be recycled can be," new Australian Council of Recycling CEO Suzanne Toumbourou told AAP.

"The app will help every Australian answer the question, 'What bin do I put this in?'"

Keen recyclers can use their phones to take a photo of a waste item, such as a plastic container, and Recycle Mate will use artificial intelligence to identify it and determine whether the local council can recycle it.

"The technological sophistication that underpins this is probably unprecedented," Ms Toumbourou said.

The app has been developed by Australian company Adaptation Environmental Support over the past three years.

Adaptation Managing Director Lara Barclay says the app's early users are teaching it what different pieces of waste look like and are called.

"Every time you search for a word or take a photo, the app collects the data and we feed that back in," she told AAP.

Ms Barclay said the beta version of the app is available to download at the moment but isn't yet fully functional in all parts of the country.

For now, she hopes people will use an associated program called Recycle Soldiers and take pictures of their rubbish items to help teach the system to identify them.

There are several recycling apps already available in Australia including Brisbane Bin and Recycling, Recycle Right (used in Western Australia) and RecycleSmart.

But Ms Barclay says Recycle Mate has a much bigger scope and already has data on more than 4000 waste items.

Between 10 and 15 per cent of items put in household recycling bins are not actually recyclable, which can contaminate loads of recyclable items and result in more waste going to landfill.

Ms Toumbourou wants Recycle Mate to help fuel a circular economy, where waste is processed to be reused again and again.

"We'd like to see as much waste as possible go back into the supply chain," she said.

Australia generated about 74 million tonnes of waste in 2018-19, equal to just under three tonnes per person.

Recycle Mate is financially supported by the federal government's Environment Restoration Fund and the NSW Environment Protection Authority's Waste Less Recycle More initiative.

It rolls out nationally from August.

Australian Associated Press