Some McDonald's locations installing cameras in dumpsters to help alleviate waste problem
Compology is a San Francisco based company that Gates started in 2013, and its main initiative involves installing cameras and artificial intelligence near dumpsters outside of restaurants and major department stores.
Naturally, this leads one to wonder why anyone would want to watch what happens near a dumpster.
But Gates has an interesting response to that question, and it centers on environmental protection.
Gates told CNN, "We've found that most businesses and people have the right intentions about recycling, but oftentimes they just don't know what the proper way to recycle is."
People often mistakenly toss recyclable materials like cardboard with nonrecyclable trash, then the cardboard becomes junk too, Gates noted.
That's why his company installs trash-monitoring cameras and sensors inside industrial waste containers and lets the customer know when something is where it shouldn't be, such as a bag of trash tossed into a dumpster filled with cardboard boxes for recycling.
Gates said the company's cameras can cut the amount of nonrecyclable materials thrown in waste containers by as much as 80 percent.
The AI technology has come in handy for its customers, such as McDonald's restaurants in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Gates explained to CNN that while his cameras revealed the company was generally doing a good job recycling cardboard packaging, it was also revealed that garbage bags were occasionally thrown in with materials that were meant to be recycled.
"Once we saw the bags of trash go inside the cardboard containers, we sent a notification to the people on site via text message, letting them know that they should remove it before the truck comes the next morning and telling them that putting trash in the recycling container is a form of contamination, which they should not do in the future," he said.
According to CNN, Brent Bohn, who owns and operates dozens of McDonald's restaurants in the Las Vegas and Phoenix areas, uses Compology at restaurants in Las Vegas to help ensure restaurant workers are recycling properly.
"The cameras have really streamlined that for us and provided accountability for us, but also for our suppliers and the haulers that we work with," he told reporters.
Compology systems sort trash with tens of millions of images, and uses each picture to determine how full dumpsters are and what their contents consist of. So far, Compology has processed over 80 million images from the 162,000 cameras it has installed.
Compology's artificial intelligence system is vital because the United States had stopped sending its scrap and waste to China. China began banning the imports of recycling materials in 2017, citing environmental concerns from mixed-in contaminants, and expanded its ban in 2018.
Since then, the US has struggled to determine what to do with its recyclables, with some cities simply halting recycling programs.
According to CNN, cleaning up materials stateside could make it easier for the country to recycle on its own (and, in fact, it's one of the US Environmental Protection Agency's goals to raise the domestic recycling rate to 50% by 2030; it currently hovers around 32 percent).
Gates hopes that eventually, Compology will help standardize how waste is measured and reported.
"You've been able to measure how much electricity, water, gas you've used for decades," Gates said. "What we're doing is being able to meter how much waste you produce."
In addition to McDonald's, some of Compology's most well-known customers include ADT Security and Nordstrom.
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