Wrong question: Can Robots Fix Recycling?

Right question: how can we recycle as little as possible?

Wrong question: Can Robots Fix Recycling? /img/robot-sorting-waste.jpg


In 2018, China stopped accepting to recycle most American scrap plastic and cardboard due to contamination problems. Since then, many cities in the US and elsewhere have been forced to either switch to much more expensive find ways to recycle their waste locally, or stop recycling altogether.

CNBC recently reported that, to solve this recycling crisis, “companies and municipalities are turning to AI-assisted robots.”

OK. As a patch, that is

There are a lot of excellent reasons to use robots for this task: they save human lives, can be twice as fast as humans.

The greatest danger in robots to keep using them undefinitely. Not (in this case) because they “replace humans”. Because they solve a problem that should not exist in the first place.

The real problem to solve, quoting from Slashdot is that “it doesn’t cost much money to just throw things away and there is entirely no penalty for making products that are difficult to recycle”.

Say YES to:

  • handling with robots all and only the recyclable or dangerous waste, from both consumers and industries, that already exists, maybe still waiting to be bought on store shelves, or remote warehouses.
  • open source appliances, and Right to Repair in general

Say NO to:

  • using for more than other five years robots, or anything else, to recycle stuff that shouldn’t exist in the first place
  • almost all “single use” products sold today
  • extra packaging, especially plastic
  • programmed obsolescence (including the one caused by software)

Final question: Who will recycle the robots? How?