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Tracking Trash at the SENSEable City Laboratory

Tracking Trash at the SENSEable City Laboratory
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Carlo Ratti, from the SENSEable City Laboratory at MIT has initiated a project to track where trash goes when we throw it "away".

Dan Gould
  • 5 october 2009

Carlo Ratti of the SENSEable City Laboratory at MIT has initiated a project to track where trash goes when we throw it “away”.

Battery-powered Sim cards, combined with a motion sensor are attached to bits of garbage and update their location every 15 minutes for up to eight weeks. Using the mobile phone network, researchers can locate each object within 100 meters within a city, and about half a mile in the country.

The Telegraph explains:

Ratti likens the use of these tags to injecting a radioactive substance into a patient in order to find blockages that might be causing health problems.

In this case, the blockages are problems with a city’s waste-disposal system: by tracking the final resting place of pieces of waste, from coffee cups to fluorescent bulbs, they can discover whether stuff that can be recycled ends up in a landfill. That applies not just to glass and plastics, but valuable (or toxic) substances such as gold, aluminium, nickel, copper, zinc, lead, cadmium and mercury, too.

Telegraph: “Science  How a rubbish idea could save the planet”

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