Earlier this week we were given the opportunity to take our new and improved version of the Charopy smart bin technology out to Macquarie University as they were hosting a number of important guests at the same time. A previous supporter of Charopy, the NSW Minister for Customer Service, Victor Dominello was there, the Mayor of Ryde Jerome Laxale was there, and the NSW Minister for Finance and Small Business, Damien Tudehope was even kind enough to let us film him experiencing our source separation technology for the first time. Minister Tudehope appears first in the video below.

Even prior to the invention of our smart bin we were seeing impressive results from our technological efforts, but this past week were were able to show people how far we have come since the first prototype bin we tested in schools, and then the more recent model that was released in a corporate office environment. With our new firmware upgrade this week we have significantly increased the speed of operation, through both improved database design and a much more efficient search algorithm. The end result (as you can see in the video above) is we have virtually eliminated any lag between the item being recognised and the locked flap being released to allowed the permitted recycling item to be entered into the bin. In a school the time lag is less of an issue; in an office, a factory or a shopping centre food court every one tenth of a second we can shave off the time taken to use the bin is expected to have a significant increase in overall satisfaction with the experience of using a Charopy smart bin. It is now possible to ensure an almost seamless experience when ensuring a contamination free CDS recycling bin within an office environment.

There was an article in the Sydney Morning Herald recenlty with the headline Sydney recycling plant to shut as market prices collapse, costs soar. On first impression that might have left a lot of people in despair, but the really important part of this article was buried deep within the copy.

...the cost of processing plastics and other materials had soared because buyers wanted much lower rates of contamination in the products.

So the real problem is really the contaminated bales, typically from co-mingled recycling, where different types of plastics such at PET and HDPE are not efficiently separated and all sorts of other contamination gets into the 'recycling' collection stream. This is one of the big advantages of a well run container deposit scheme, and Charopy are pleased to be feeding into that channel to ensure significantly improved recycling outcomes. As the article states, buyers of recycled material are looking for low rates of contamination, as and was discussed in an earlier blog post, the further upstream you can separate the good from the bad when it comes to recycling material and waste, the greater the chance your so-called recycling will end up actually being used for recycling.

This exactly the problem Charopy are working to solve. And we are working some great early customers who share this vision.

Back in November we piloted the first version of our smart bin technology in a number of schools, learning a lot in the process about how we would need to modify the design and the underlying technology, as well as some of the associated functionality in order to have a product relevant for a much wider market. I am pleased to say that we now have that product along with some amazing corporate clients who are piloting this in their offices over the coming months.

The photo below is deliberately taken side on, as we are still remaining a little coy about exactly how the bin works - we are not ready for full publicity on this innovation just yet. The key feature to be aware of is that the flap within the lid remains locked and only opens for eligible items, thereby ensuring that only the correct type of containers are put into the bin. The new version operates at over five times the speed of the first prototype and is a much cleaner design more suited to offices. That said, there is no reason why this technology couldn't be applied in any non kerbside location where recycling bin contamination is a problem. Primarily we see it being used in offices, shopping centres, factories and schools, but we have been asked about festivals and other public area spaces and this could also work. Reverse Vending Machines do a good job within the container deposit scheme today, but the market for Charopy is any location where a full RVM is not viable due to size or cost constraints.

For offices, the bin above is simply plugged into the wall (photo above is a 120 litre wheelie bin, but we also have a 240 litre version). If desired it can run on a battery, and we are even looking into a solar powered option. The technology can also be customised as part of an office fitout to be incorporated more elegantly into existing waste disposal infrastructure. We see this latter option being of particular interest not only to large office buildings, but for shopping centres where effective recycling in food courts presents some unique challenges, where there is a high number of single use drink containers sold, but where wheelie bins may not be suitable.

There is no doubt that the problem we are working to solve is a very real problem, and the early support we have received from people working in large companies with job titles like Head of Sustainability has been very heartwarming. It is great to be already working with some forward thinking companies who know that it is little use talking about sustainable practices if the waste created within their own office is not being recycled in the best possible way. Charopy is all about creating a highly effective method for separating specific items at source, or initial point of collection. That philosophy is summed up well in this quote from the EPA website

Source separated recyclables historically provide the cleanest materials with the highest revenues when sold. Effective source separation supports the highest and best use of materials and cleaner feedstock for producing recycled materials because there is less contamination.

When we first started working with schools on improving recycling outcomes via increased container deposit scheme adoption we saw some huge results, so we are quietly confident of having a similar impact with other non kerbside locations using this new technology.

Recycling bin contamination is a huge problem, so last week we took some new technology out to a group of government and non government schools for testing; it passed with flying colours. This problem though is much broader than schools; just look at almost any office staff room recycling bin, or wait to see the cleaners throwing the contents of contaminated recycling bins into the general waste stream. Our mission with Charopy is to solve this problem for anything non-kerbside, as contaminated recycling going to landfill is not being solved just with signage and education, but it can be solved with technology. The most valuable waste in any organisation is container deposit scheme material, so even for companies not interested in the fact that a recycled aluminium can creates around 95% less CO2 than a newly created can, isolating CDS waste can actually reduce your overall waste collection costs. Thank you to St Rose Catholic Primary School from Broken Bay Diocese for allowing me to share this video.

We are still testing some different designs, so the form of the bin lid will almost certainly change over the coming months, but the technology that enables this to be done cost effectively was the hard part and this has now been solved. We are in discussions with various corporate clients about modifying the existing lid that fits on a standard 240 litre wheelie bin, as the office bin will look very different to this. We are expecting less complexity in that version as it is unlikely the office bin will need a screen, and it probably won't need a Near Field Communication antenna either if it is purely designed to eliminate contamination and is not required to make payment to the person depositing the rubbish into the recycling bin. So in some ways the primary school smart bin is the most complex one we envisage - when you are specifically designing something to work in places where a true reverse vending machine is not viable due to cost or size, and you want something that does not require a technician to install or service the item, then less complexity is a good thing.