East Lansing launches pilot program in effort to better recycling habits

The six-month pilot program will help the city better understand how people are recycling and offer more ways to improve recycling habits.
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 10:26 PM EDT
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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Recycling trucks in East Lansing will be equipped with robotic cameras to sift through your recycling bin.

The six-month pilot program will help the city better understand how people are recycling and offer more ways to improve recycling habits.

A lot of the time, people recycle with good intentions, but sometimes what we recycle can actually hurt the city’s equipment. The new technology will capture things that shouldn’t be recycling.

The hardest part of Chris Smith’s job isn’t collecting the recycling, but what happens after. After collecting recycling, Smith sifts through the content to make sure everything actually can be recycled. If it can’t, he has to tag curbside recycling carts.

“Separating carts is a huge task of ours to tackle and its every week,” Smith said. “We leave items behind or if the cart can’t even be emptied because it has too many garbage food waste.”

It now is as easy as simply pressing a button.

“Two cameras were installed,” Smith said. “One faces the street side and one faces the material being dumped in.”

The City of East Lansing, along with Environment Great Lakes and Energy, have partnered with Prairie Robotics to place the camera technology in the recycling trucks. The cameras will help capture contamination in recycling carts, like styrofoam, plastic bags and things that tangle equipment.

“We’re actually getting more recovery of recyclable material,” said Cliff Walls, an environmental specialist. “And the costly damages and time consuming efforts to remove it are much easier to achieve through this technology.”

It will make recycling easier and more cost effective in the city. Residents will be informed if they are recycling correctly and how they can improve.

The Department of Public Works said they’re still in the early stages, but residents can get their first round of feedback on how they’re recycling in November.

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