Modifying Waste Bins to be Weighable

This note is a personal exercise for me to think more actively about climate change. You can see a full list of related thoughts here.

A few months back, I learned about how Recology, a San Francisco based recycling company, uses computer vision to help sort our waste. As a result, I did a mini-exploration into how we might hold people more accountable for the waste they generate by charging by weight or ideally by materials with the help of computer vision. The idea would be to put a camera system on the truck to track which address is discarding the most waste, recycling, or compost. Then when the material is deposited into the truck, look to see which corporations are contributing the most to the local waste system.

Modifying Waste Bins


Step one modify bins with QR codes to identify who owns it and who should be charged for the disposal of its contents.

Measuring Weight Bin


Step two would be using a camera on the collection truck and a scale built into the lift arm to scan the bin and then determines the weight of the bin. Then using another camera in the collection portion of the truck, before compression of the waste, we could scan to see what was inside the bin. Then we can look at what types of material are being thrown away. However, this would prove complex if items are in bags and raise many privacy concerns regarding the data that would be collected.

More research would be needed to ensure that less affluent neighborhoods are not being charged in a way that increases the wealth gap.

I’m interested in exploring more tiny moments like this to change our relationship with waste systems. If you know of any cool things you have seen, please share them with me on Twitter or add them to the public collection 🔬 Waste Systems.