Imagine if your trash can automatically swings open as you are approaching with a heavy pile of trash? In Yard 1, Xinfeng Street, in Beijing’s Xicheng district, the trash cans “facially recognise” residents and open up as they approach with multiple packets of waste.
In addition, QR coded garbage bags help building management figure out if the right trash has been dropped into the right bin. And, good waste-sorting behaviour is rewarded based on accumulated points with eggs, salt, toilet rolls, and detergent or erasers for kids.
Simply put, residents look straight at a camera, which verifies their information and opens up the lid of the chosen trash can — seven in all. But first, residents have to be registered through an app, which also clocks points for reward points the reward, and can then throw all waste or four kinds of recyclables — paper, plastic, metals and textiles — by just staring at a camera.
Li Na, a staff member at the residential community’s building management, told The Indian Express that volunteers help residents figure out what trash goes into which bin. Residents also have access to a QR-coded garbage bag dispensing machine, she said.
“With these bags with QR codes on them, we can trace the resident who bought the bags (30 Yuan each) and guide them if they have placed the wrong waste in the wrong bin,” she said. This system, almost three months old, is an improvement to the older system of handing out 90 QR code stickers to each family to last them three months. “That was effective but a waste of paper. Now everything is done through an app,” Li said.
Further, every Thursday morning, the building management holds educational events to explain to residents about waste-sorting. “Roughly 70 per cent of the residents are accustomed to waste-sorting, and the remaining 30 per cent need some stronger guidance,” she said. Explanatory videos also run on screens inside the elevators of buildings.
This smart garbage-sorting system is a pilot project under the Desheng Subdistrict Office in this residential community which has attempted to sort trash since 2006, according to Chinese state media. Information with the building management revealed there are more than 1,900 permanent residents, and more than 80 per cent are central government employees. In all, there are 29 units of trash bins across the 16 buildings.
After Shanghai made it compulsory for people and businesses to sort their garbage into four types on July 1, Beijing is expected to follow suit. The efforts are part of China’s national push to reduce waste and increase recycling, according to the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, through which China hopes 46 cities will recycle more than 35 per cent of overall waste by 2020.
At Xinfeng Street, garbage sorting has been a part of life for over a decade, say residents. In 2014, a workspace to process kitchen waste was built inside the community, which now processes 1.5 tonnes of kitchen waste every day, and the water residue that is produced can be discharged directly into the municipal pipe network, said Li.
Yet, the trash bins don’t open for everybody in Xinfeng Street. Not for 12-year-old Zhong Zimo’s grandfather who, on a sweltering afternoon, was attempting to dispose of an assortment of waste, including a red teddy bear. The 70-year-old, who did not wish to be named, said: “I don’t live here. I am visiting my son and not very sure how these bins work.”
At the time The Indian Express visited the residential community, many of the senior citizens simply pushed the button to open up the bins, instead of using the artificial intelligence system.
On 72-year-old Cheng Shifang’s phone is an app she downloaded via the Chinese messaging app WeChat, to dispose waste using AI. “The app registers my personal information, links the account with family members, registers me for facial recognition, and teaches me how to put things in the waste bin, and I am informed of the points I accumulate for following the procedure,” she said.