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.

  • Martin

Based upon the early success of our pilot schools, we have been getting some good interest from various parties wanting to know more about how we are bringing innovation to the container deposit scheme in NSW; with hopefully other states and many more schools to follow. Earlier this week we were mentioned in the NSW Parliament where Victor Dominello gave a very comprehensive speech about how Charopy "aims to build positive, sustainable habits early and has been shown to increase kids' tendency to recycle."

This was following the Minister coming out to see Charopy in action at one of the schools in his electorate of Ryde. I was impressed with the way he really took time to understand the technology, even to the point of downloading an NFC reader app onto his own phone so he could experience the way a parent checks the balance on their child's wristband and also to experience some of the gamification elements we have built within Charopy to increase the fun and engagement levels for kids when it comes to learning about sustainability. Victor also put up some great posts on his various social media channels.

A few weeks before that we spent the morning with the Channel Nine News crew who filmed a nice light-hearted segment at Eastwood Public School that illustrated really well the process of children returning their eligible single use drink containers for recycling, earning the 10c onto their wristbands, and then spending that money in the canteen. If you want to understand the typical way Charopy works within a primary school in only two minutes, then click the link above as reporter Mike Dalton did a great job explaining the process, adding in his own special brand of humour along the way. I use the phrase typical way as even for schools without a canteen, or schools who want to use Charopy for fundraising, there are different ways the technology can be implemented at a school besides our most common model.

In the past month we have also had students from the Northern Beaches make a video that was shown to other schools visiting Taronga Zoo. It showed how they are using Charopy to drive increased recycling activity and sustainability awareness among their fellow students. There clearly are more people, companies and government departments I can't mention here, and whilst it is always heartwarming to see children at existing schools really embrace recycling, it is also very good to hear from new people who want to learn more about how they might implement Charopy at their school, or companies looking to work with us in some way. We are always very open to hearing from people wanting to know more about our unique approach to school recycling programs, as we have some very exciting plans and new technical developments in the pipeline; with recycling such a hot topic at the moment, there is still plenty of room for further innovation.