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Illustration of robotic recycling

Trash Talking

December 16, 2019
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China’s 2018 decision to stop accepting recyclables from the United States sent shock waves through the recycling industry. The move has left municipalities with the hefty task of trying to figure out how to handle the tons of paper, plastic, metal, and other materials piling up in landfills. Meanwhile, a WPI faculty member is studying the problem as an opportunity to revamp the recycling process. Berk Calli, associate professor of computer science and robotics engineering, has received a four-year, $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s “Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier” program. Calli, along with researchers at Yale and Boston University, will design what could be the recycling plant of the future. The project aims to integrate new technologies and the existing workforce with an emphasis on keeping and elevating human tasks with robotic support to make the process more efficient, profitable, and safer. The project includes faculty and students from several disciplines, including mechanical engineering, environmental and material sciences, and computer science and robotics.