Commentary
7/16/2009
09:49 PM
Cora Nucci
Cora Nucci
Commentary

With MIT's Trash Track, Garbage Is Gone But Not Forgotten

We tag and track our laptop computers, our cars, and even our dogs. Now researchers at MIT are working on a project to track paper coffee cups, and last night's takeout food containers -- our trash.



We tag and track our laptop computers, our cars, and even our dogs. Now researchers at MIT are working on a project to track paper coffee cups, and last night's takeout food containers -- our trash.Trash Track, as the project is named, relies on wireless location markers or smart tags developed specifically for the project.

The tags will be attached to various pieces of garbage and tracked as each piece makes its way along "what we would call 'the removal chain' [which] is becoming as important as … the supply chain," said Assaf Biderman, associate director of MIT's SENSEable City Lab.

"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 the Lab's director Professor Carlo Ratti.

Thousands of the tags, attached to garbage provided by volunteers, will be deployed in Seattle and New York. Each piece will be tracked via triangulation. Locations will be reported to a central server, where the data will be analyzed and processed in real time. The public will be able to view the trail of the trash online, and in exhibits at the Architectural League in New York City and in the Seattle Public Library, beginning in September.

The Trash Track team is experimenting with mashing up the mobile trash with Google Street View. A third batch will be deployed in London.

"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 project leader, Musstanser Tinauli, in a statement.

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