Smart recycling bin
An image of Cambridge Consultants' retail-focused smart bin. Cambridge Consultants

Shopping centres could one day be populated with 'smart bins' that reward you for your eco-friendly diligence.

Created by product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants, the smart bin concept looks to improve recycling rates by informing rubbish-carriers what items can be recycled, while also incentivising them to do so with a points system tallied in a smartphone app. Said points could then be spent at stores or donated to charity.

The technology within the smart bins includes an image recognition system powered by artificial intelligence. The bin units can also identify new recyclable items over time through machine learning tech.

An example given by its creator is a simple coffee cup, of which it claims there are seven million used on a daily basis in the UK - with the majority ending up in standard waste bins.

In an explanatory video (embedded below), cups are placed on a central pad and scanned by an adjacent camera. A green ring then lights up around the correct receptacle.

Cambridge Consultants claim that the bin can even detect the difference between a recyclable cup and a compostable cup.

While artificially intelligent solutions are already available for the home, these new smart bins are intended for deployment by retail brands. Its creators believe the bins will help businesses "engage with their customers and make their businesses more sustainable."

"Consumer brands are coming under increasing pressure from the government, lobby groups and consumers like you and me, to take responsibility for the end-of-life of their products," said Sajith Wimalaratne, food and beverage commercial manager at Cambridge Consultants. "They are looking to make eco-friendly choices, looking for ways to operate sustainably and profitably whilst improving customer engagement."

"To date, the focus has mainly been on developing new products and materials that are more recyclable or compostable, but there still remain challenges collecting and sorting recyclates. The smarter recycling system gives a brand a real reason to be in contact with the consumer while showing a commitment to make a positive impact."