MIT team wants to track your trash

Cambridge, Mass – Hoping to get people thinking more about their garbage, an MIT team is planning to tag thousands of items of trash in New York, Seattle and London.

The tiny wireless location markers send a mobile signal to a central server, allowing their position to be plotted on a map in real time. The tags are encased in a protective resin.

The team plans to tag everything from computers to garden clippings in a way that mirrors the cities’ real-life consumption. It says it is looking for volunteers to donate their trash.

“Our project aims to reveal the disposal process of our everyday objects, as well as to highlight potential inefficiencies in today’s recycling and sanitation systems,” said Professor Carlo Ratti, head of the MIT SENSEable City lab. “The project could be considered the urban equivalent of nuclear medicine – when a tracer is injected and followed through the human body.”

Trash Track was initially inspired by the Green NYC Initiative, the goal of which is to increase the rate of waste recycling in New York to almost 100 percent by 2030. Currently, only about 30 percent of the city’s waste is diverted from landfills for recycling.

“We hope that Trash Track will also point the way to a possible urban future: that of a system where, thanks to the pervasive usage of smart tags, 100 percent recycling could become a reality,” said research assistant Musstanser Tinauli.