Boffins tag rubbish in MIT experiment

MIT rubbish tracker

Boffins at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are using mobile smart tags to monitor rubbish with the aim of increasing recycling practices and reducing landfill waste.

While the researchers are concentrating their efforts on thousands of donated pieces of rubbish in London, New York and Seattle, if successful the project could easily be extended to cover other places facing the same issues of growing landfill sites and a resistance to recycling.

MIT's SENSEable City Lab has produced low-energy, mini mobile phone-like tags that will help the research team collect and analyse data on the gargantuan amount of waste moving around the system each day. In addition to being used in helping create a long-term solution, the results will be showcased in September at the North Gallery of the Architectural League of New York City on Madison Avenue.

"How can pervasive technologies help expose the challenges of waste management and sustainability?" questioned a presentation on the Trash Track blog. "And how can we suggest a future scenario where the same pervasive technologies can make 100 per cent recycling a reality, thereby freeing urban land for other uses?"

It added: "Trash Track will tag different types of waste and follow these through the city's waste management system to reveal the end-of-life journey of our everyday objects."

The MIT team's work follows in the footsteps of similar efforts in New York where the NYC Green Initiative is trying to move its current rate of 34 per cent of landfill waste being recycled today to 100 per cent by 2030.

"Think about a future where thanks to smart tags we will not have waste anymore," project researcher Carlo Ratti said in an interview with the BBC. "Everything will be traceable."

Can the mobile industry go green? Click here to read our feature.

Looking for eco advice? Our top 10 tips for green IT should help.

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.