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AI combating Plastic Pollution

Tijana Nikolic
August 14, 2023

AI vs plastic pollution: the battle of the 21st century.

In a world drowning in plastic, where we have generated 8.3 billion tons of such waste since the 1950s, a hero is needed to oppose its pollution and help marine and terrestrial ecosystems on Earth and in space. That hero emerges from a sea of 1s and 0s, and it’s called Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI models can be used not just to play chess, but also to sort different types of plastic, optimize disposal methods, recycling and more, offering a battle strategy against plastic like no other.

AI’s jab: detection of plastic

A lot of the plastic waste ends up in bodies of water, such as rivers and oceans. High-resolution satellite imagery and drones equipped with AI can track, quantify, and categorize plastic waste in various environments. This enables a comprehensive understanding of the sources, accumulation zones, and movement patterns of plastic waste. A famous example of this is The Ocean Cleanup organization that uses AI to monitor plastic density in oceans, and use that information to decide on cleanup locations.

AI’s uppercut: optimized sorting

Once the waste is detected and collected, it needs to be handled by recycling facilities. They often struggle with waste not being separated correctly on the conveyer belt. Given that AI learns from patterns in data, we can use it for detecting different types of waste and plastic to help overcome inefficiencies in manual sorting. Greyparrot is a company that uses AI to do just this – their system automatically identifies waste types and analyses them to tackle low recycling rates.

AI’s hook: optimized product design

Beyond the obvious, AI can also be used to rethink product design and reduce the use of plastic in manufacturing.  Amazon is using AI to increase packaging efficiencies and reduce waste in final product packaging and transport.

See, AI is here not just to make our lives easier, but also cleaner. And always remember that these models need to be deployed responsibly to be trusted and used for good. If not, our hero’s armor will not be so shiny anymore.

About the author

AI Specialist | Netherlands
Tijana is an AI Specialist in Sogeti Netherlands AI CoE team with a diverse background in biology, marketing, and IT. Her vision is to bring innovative solutions to the market with a strong emphasis on privacy, quality, ethics, and sustainability.


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