The Loh Down On Science

Garbage Sorter

Recycling? The hyperspectral camera makes sorting a snap.

Garbage? It's literally in the eye of the beholder!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

You know you love recycling--going green, saving the planet, keeping Ed Begley, Jr. from SNAPPING!

The problem? The sorting. UGH.

It's necessary, of course. Separating recyclable materials maximizes reuse.

But while some of the process has been mechanized, a lot still is hand done.

Donald Cowling and Neil Randall at the research firm Qinetiq, have posited a solution.


Hyperspectral cameras were first developed for the military. They spot, AS COLORS, the ultraviolet and infrared portions of the light spectrum, located above and below the visible light our eyes can see.

The scientists say a hyperspectral camera can recognize all recyclable plastic, metal, and glass, seeing them as distinct hyperspectral colors.

Integrating these cameras into robotic sorting systems would allow recyclables to plucked from random garbage without hand sorting.

It's like one of those claw games at Chuck E. Cheese's. Not that your kids are actually sorting garbage at Chuck E. Cheese. No, those toys are a quality value.

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