Playing Tag with Your Trash

garbage cans in a row

Recycled poop, talking trash, and now tags – what a waste of a week.

A team of researchers involved with the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are playing tag with trash in an effort to find out not only what people are throwing out but also where the trash is ending up. (This tagging thing is really catching on.)

The researchers have developed battery power microprocessor tags that have the ability to send out cell phone signals. Volunteers in Seattle and New York City will be asked to put these tags on particular items to be tossed, such as electronics, Styrofoam and tires, in an effort to discover where these particular harmful products end up. Once tagged, the item will be tracked via signals it emits as it passes cell phone towers on the way to its final destination. These signals will be recorded by Senseable City Lab’s computer servers. As a result, the researchers will be able to monitor patterns and costs of urban trash disposal.

It’s possible that some signals will be blocked if the tagged items are being moved or stored in steel or aluminium structures, but as soon as they are moved away from them, the signals from the tags will be picked back up. If the item remains stationary, then where the signal was lost will be the place the trash trackers will mark as the final destination.

Image: isado