BACKGROUND: A Philadelphia company has teamed up with a manufacturer of plastic trash carts to develop a system that identifies a recycle bin by its household. Each bin is embedded with a "smart waste" tag -- a combination computer chip and bar code reader --so the bins can be scanned and weighed right at the curb. Once scanned, the data is recorded on a computer and linked to that particular household. The system tallies credits for households that are above average for recycling, and issues "recycle dollars" that can be used at participating businesses for discounts.
THE RESULTS: RecycleBank in Philadelphia has seen recycling participation rise to 90 percent of the 2,500 residents who subscribed to the pilot program, up from less than 25 percent of those households when the program began. Not only did more homes participate, but they recycled more of their trash. The average recycling rate rose from less than 5 percent to more than 50 percent.
HOW RFID TAGS WORK: Location tracking technology has many different components, including geographic information systems, the global positioning system, wireless local area networks and the infrastructure that has evolved around cellular phones. In a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system, small microchips are implanted into consumer goods, cattle, vehicles and other objects to track their movements. RFID tags are passive and only transmit data if prompted by a reader. The reader transmits radio waves that activate the tag, which then transmits information via a pre-set radio frequency. Currently, location tracking systems are used to streamline corporate supply chains, monitor assets and prevent inventory loss. But one day RFID tags may replace traditional bar codes in stores.
WHAT ARE MEMS: Microelectro-mechanical systems (MEMs) integrate electronic and moving parts onto a microscopic silicon chip, making them ideal for new sensor technology. The term MEMS was coined in the 1980s. A MEMS device is usually only a few micrometers wide; for comparison, a human hair is 50 micrometers wide. Among other everyday applications, MEMS-based sensors are used in cars to detect the sudden motion of a collision and trigger release of the airbag. They are also found in ink-jet printers, blood pressure monitors, and projection display systems.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.