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How Tech Helps Sort Garbage and Save the Planet

AIMachine LearningClimate changeEnvironmental problemstech solutionssave the planettechnologies save the planettechnology solutions for the environmentChina sorting garbage policyQR codes for trash bagsQR codes

It is a fact that the climate is changing rapidly. But how can technology help us save the planet? Recently, we wrote about blockchain solutions for reducing our harm to nature. However, time has passed and now there are even more tech solutions for preventing climate change. And surprisingly, some countries like China are already adopting them. Let’s have a sneak peek.

 

China, the good example of how we can save the planet

Since the beginning of the month, everyone living in the world’s most populated city—Shanghai—is obliged to sort their garbage. That, as well, applies to companies. The new compulsory garbage-sorting program requires everyone to classify their trash in four categories and throw their trash bags at a designated place at certain times. People and companies who do not comply are facing fines. In addition, companies’ credit ratings might be lowered.

 

At the same time, Chinese companies seem to like the whole sort-your-garbage idea and they are even coming up with high-tech ideas on how to help it thrive. For example, China’s biggest internet companies developed a new search feature that help people classify their trash. It tells them which wastes are“dry”, “toxic”, “wet”,  or “recyclable”.

 

The new search feature is available as a mini app on WeChat, Baidu or Alipay. All people need to do is to download the mini app, enter the keyword and they will find all the information they need.

 

Save the planet technology
techcrunch.com

 

According to Alibaba’s electronics payment affiliate, Alipay, their garbage-sorting mini app got one million new users in three days. The lite version of the app, which is available inside the e-wallet, has already classified more than 4,000 types of wastes. Furthermore, the app’s database is still growing, and soon it will have an image recognition feature that will help people classify their trash just by taking a photo of it.

 

QR codes

In addition to the sorting-garbage mini apps, tech companies are helping property managers, as well, by incorporating QR codes. Each household is asked to place a unique QR code to their trash bags, which will later be scanned at the waste management station. In this way, the managers are able to trace the origin of garbage and classify it much faster. Moreover, there is a reward system for households who sort their garbage correctly. As a result, they will receive 1.45 cents, per day.

 

What more can we do with the help of technology?

Some of the AI field’s best-known thinkers—DeepMind’s CEO Demis Hassabis, Turing award winner Yoshua Bengio, and Google Brain co-founder Andrew Ng—has published a new research paper that aims to answer this question.

 

What’s more, their research proposes different ways of how machine learning could help save the planet. Some of them include incorporation of AI and satellite imagery to better monitor deforestation and development of new materials that can replace steel and cement. Not surprisingly, the production of these materials accounts for 9% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Yeah, not a pretty sight:

 

climate change
unsplash.com

 

Some of the suggestions include:

 

Building better electricity systems

Electricity systems store tons of data that nobody makes use of. Machine learning, for example, could help create forecasts of the electricity generation and demand. In this way, suppliers can better allocate renewable resources and reduce waste.

 

Monitoring deforestation

Furthermore, the paper suggests using satellite imagery and AI to identify places with high levels of deforestation and help them recover. As we know, deforestation and unsustainable agriculture stay behind the release of the carbon back into the atmosphere.

 

Creating new low-carbon materials

Additionally, with the help of machine learning, we can reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions by developing low-carbon alternatives of steel and cement. AI allows scientists to model the properties and interactions of new chemical mixtures and in this way discovering new materials.

 

More efficient transportation

Another huge sector responsible for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions is the transportation sector. The authors of the research suggest using machine learning for estimating and reducing the number of wasted journeys, shifting freight to low-carbon options like rail and increasing the vehicles’ efficiency.

 

Reducing building’s energy consumption

Our homes’ energy consumption is also highly responsible for the climate change that we see today. What people can do is make use of smart sensors that can monitor the temperature of water and air as well as energy usage. Just by doing that, the energy consumption can be reduced with 20% in a single building. Imagine what could happen if this is applied for a whole city like Shanghai!

 

Providing people with tools measuring their carbon footprint

Unsurprisingly, machine learning could help to estimate each person’s carbon footprint. This information can then be further used for suggesting changes that everybody can make in order to save the planet. For example, people can use public transportation more often or reduce electricity use in their house.

 

What’s important here is that by adding up each individual’s actions we can make a bigger change. Furthermore, introducing high-tech in the mix could help us save the planet or at least reduce the harm. You can also sign up for our newsletter in order to stay tuned with the latest tech news. Who knows, maybe next month, scientists will find a solution for the environmental crisis.

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