Vietnamese students from HCMUT create smart recycling bin

If there’s one thing to say about Vietnamese students, it’s that there’s no end to their creativity. We’ve seen them coming up with creative “hacks” to take ID photos, or penning hilarious yearbook quotes that went viral on the Internet.

Their ingenuity doesn’t stop at entertaining little incidents either. Many have invested their effort into creating new apps or devices to address problems in our modern lives, contributing to a better society. As the latest example of this, a group of students from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HCMUT) has designed a smart recycling bin capable of identifying different types of trash and sorting them into their respective containers.

The bin can identify trash with its smart camera

Video credit: Khoa Trần

Named “Yehchai” – a combination of the exclamation “Yeh” and the Vietnamese words “ve chai”, meaning “recycled bottles” – the first prototype of the device can recognize 3 different types of trash: plastics, cans, and cartons. When a piece of trash is placed in the machine, the built-in camera will scan it to identify which of the 3 categories it belongs to, then drops it into the respective sorting container. Any unidentifiable object will be rejected.

According to Trần Minh Khoa, one of the creators, a major challenge they faced while designing this smart recycling bin was that they had to provide it with a lot of data in pictures so that it can recognize different shapes and sizes of bottles, cans, and cartons.

Users can exchange trash for cafe discounts

Image credit: Thanh Tâm

To implement this machine into people’s everyday lives, the students aim to reach out to café chains around the city to ask for in-kind sponsorships. If successful, they can make the machines issue a code every time someone uses the machine, so the user can later use it at these cafes to redeem a discount.

By providing an incentive to users, the team hopes it will encourage people to actively seek out these smart recycling bins when they need to dispose of an empty bottle, thus resulting in less littering, which is a common issue in Vietnam. It can also help raise awareness about the importance of recycling as well.

Students at HCMUT are fascinated by the machine
Image credit: Thanh Tâm

The team also plans to upgrade the model in the future to increase its effectiveness. Currently, due to limited finances, they can only equip the device with a mid-range camera, which could take several seconds to scan the bottles and cans.

Regardless, thanks to its practicality, Yehchai has earned one of the top 3 places in the Maker to Entrepreneur competition organized by the United States Agency for International Development. Held annually, this competition is a playground for engineering students around Vietnam to carry out new ideas to contribute to the country’s development.

Smart recycling bin to help combat littering

It is an encouraging sight to see that young Vietnamese talents are making good use of their skills and knowledge to contribute to their country. Hopefully, we will see their smart recycling bin model being implemented widely in the future. Surely, it’d greatly improve public hygiene in Vietnam, which has been a major issue in our big cities.

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Cover image adapted from Thanh Tâm

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