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November 10, 2015
To some, recycling is a waste of money—a bow to do-gooders that does little for the environment. But that's not how it looks to Eugenio Garnica. For those on the cutting edge of robotics, recycling is just another problem about to be solved by pattern recognition and deep learning.
Garnica leads a company in Spain called Sadako Technologies that's repurposing robots for the recycling conveyor belt. By training machines to spot valuable materials, he says it's possible to cut the cost of sorting by more than half and thus fundamentally change the economics of the industry.
The thing is that robots actually like "3-D" jobs that are "dirty, dull, and dangerous." They don't mind working around the clock, and they don't get injured when some idiot leaves hypodermic needles in the trash. Robots are perfect for recycling, and in the next few years, they'll probably start taking over. Unlike certain industries where robots taking over might be a problem, it'll actually be a blessing for the recycling business, not to mention the municipalities and taxpayers it relies upon.
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