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Regional district AI recycling pilot program sees success in Central Okanagan

Smart cameras and AI combined to keep contaminants out of recycling carts in the Central Okanagan
Sample postcard that a Central Okanagan resident received for contaminants in their recycling during the Recycling Contamination Reduction Pilot Program that ran from October 2023 to March 2024. (RDCO photo)

Recycling Contamination Reduction Pilot Program improves Central Okanagan recycling efforts

Smart cameras and AI have combined to keep contaminants out of recycling carts in the Central Okanagan.

The five-month Recycling Contamination Reduction Pilot, which ran from October 2023 to March 2024 reduced contaminates by 23 per cent.

READ MORE: AI to help sort recyclables in Central Okanagan

The program is a partnership between the Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO), member municipalities, Recycle BC, Environmental 360 Solutions, and Prairie Robotics.

It made use of smart cameras and AI to detect when unacceptable materials landed in recycling carts, take photos and let residents know about it in real-time.

The photo is included on a postcard, along with education information, and mailed directly to the resident. A total of 8,777 postcards were sent out.

The top three contaminants were flexible plastics, such as blue bags, wrappers, grocery bags, chip bags, wrappers, and Styrofoam (depot only) and garbage.

A report going to the RDCO Board outlines 45.9 per cent of residents are doing an excellent jog with recycling.

The findings showed that 35.6 per cent are considered “learners,” meaning when they received a postcard and changed their behaviours.

Nearly seven percent of households were deemed “repeat offenders” and are responsible for a third of the recycling contamination.

“The technology can cover many more homes than manual inspections and provide targeted education where it is most needed,” said Cynthia Coates, supervisor of solid waste services.

The pilot data will help Waste Ambassadors target high-contamination areas with physical cart checking.

READ MORE: Central Okanagan Waste Reduction Ambassadors to the recycling rescue

The RDCO is exploring options to implement smart cameras and AI on collection trucks on a more permanent basis.

Gary Barnes

About the Author: Gary Barnes

Journalist and broadcaster for three decades.
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