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East Lansing launches pilot program to help residents recycle better

An East Lansing recycling bin sits on the curb.
City of East Lansing
The city of East Lansing is using innovative technology to help residents recycle better.

The city of East Lansing is launching a program this month to improve residential recycling. By placing cameras on recycling collection trucks, the city plans to identify items incorrectly placed in recycling bins. The technology will simultaneously log the information and pair it with a resident’s bin.

East Lansing Environmental Specialist Cliff Walls says it's meant to provide individual feedback to residents on how well they are recycling.

"The cameras will detect if there's contamination within that stream, and allows us to send a postcard to that address, and explain a little bit more about what is recyclable and what is accepted," Walls said.

Prairie Robotics will retrofit the city’s recycling collection trucks with the camera technology. Walls says he's hoping this technology, coupled with the city's Recycle Coach app, will help educate residents on what is and isn't recyclable.

"We have a new app called Recycle Coach where you can plug in any kind of picture of a recyclable, or any type of recyclable, and you can type it on and it'll tell tell you how you can dispose of it properly," he said. "But sometimes mistakes happen. If a non-recyclable enters the waste stream, or enters the cart, it allows us to be able to identify it, and inform that resident."

Walls says the $28,000 dollar program is made possible through a partnership with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and non-profit The Recycling Partnership. The project will run for the next six months.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
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