CleanRobotics – with its TrashBot – is the latest partner to join the xBridge innovation programme at Pittsburgh International Airport, as part of the hub’s sustainability efforts.

TrashBot is a waste receptacle powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics that analyses and separates recyclable waste from landfill waste at the point of disposal instead of at a recycling facility. It is a roughly rectangular silver box with one opening and an LED screen mounted above. It can be found in Baggage Claim at Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT).

When someone throws something into the opening, it drops into a chamber full of sensors. TrashBot identifies the item, determines if it is recyclable or not, and moves it to an appropriate bin inside. When the bins get full, they notify cleaning crews via an app.

“It’s simpler than you think, because a trash can needs to be very simple,” said Tanner Cook, co-founder and CTO of CleanRobotics, a Colorado-based company.


Further developments

Soon, the screen above TrashBot will flash messaging directly related to the item being tossed. For example, if someone throws away a water bottle that still contains some liquid, TrashBot will explain that the leftover water needs to be drained before the bottle is recyclable, which many people don’t know.

“Education is first,” Cook said. “Having the data to be able to drive very direct and actionable policies and education and information is unique to our solution and very key to our value proposition.”

That education doesn’t stop with the consumer. TrashBot collects data on everything placed in it, and CleanRobotics pulls that data from all of its units and uses it to regularly update its software, meaning every TrashBot gets iteratively smarter.

The company also shares that data with its clients, to give them more insight into their consumers’ behaviour. That knowledge can help clients become more sustainable themselves, for example by adjusting sales tactics or product lines.

Image: Beth Hollerich/ Pittsburgh International Airport