Dusty-Bin Challenge

I read in the local paper last week that Merton schools were involved in a recycling challenge & lots of schools (including us!) won prizes. It made we wonder if there was a way we could encourage recycling through coding. Here’s your challenge – Can you design a recycling bin that rewards the user eg by singing or speaking a message when rubbish is recycled? You could use your Raspberry Pi to develop a prototype if you have the right sensors available!



  • Design what the bin would look like – that’s the creative bit! You might consider adapting your classroom bin? In Merton we don’t need to separate our recyclables by type, so we wouldn’t need separate bins like on the picture above.
  • What sensors would you need? (We discussed laser sensors, pressure sensors, movement sensors and using scales to record total weight of recycling, attached to a digital screen to show leaderboards.)
  • What are the inputs and outputs?
  • What’s the control?
  • Can you start to develop an algorithm?
  • What problems do you think you might encounter when trying to develop your prototype? I have already thought of some and I think we might need some springs….you may also decide you may need more than one bin. (We discussed that using weight to measure recycled materials may encourage people to recycle heavy stuff instead of paper! We don’t think we will be able to tell if the recycled goods really are recyclable – we think we will have to rely on people being honest, and provide good helpful signage. We discussed that someone walking past a bin could trigger a “Remember to recycle” message, but that this might become annoying or disruptive.)
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About nic schofield

I’m a primary schools computing technician, interested in teaching children, their teachers & their parents, about IoT, computational thinking and implications of technology on their lives and encouraging children to think critically about technology to influence change in the world.

4 thoughts on “Dusty-Bin Challenge

  1. I would do mine purely on weight. I would have a bin in each classroom and then have a central display showing which classes bin held the most. The display could be a graphic. That way the children could see who was doing the best.


  2. My idea is that you put things in a compartment then if you put something in the bin it gives you something out the compartment. It uses pressure sensors to see if you have put something in.


  3. The bin, for mine, would only be the frame. Inside, there would be many scanners, that scan whatever comes into the bin, they scan the barcode, and recognise what product it is, and gives a message, that somehow relates to it. It knows when something enters the bin, using sensors in the gap where the waste is put in, or using sound-detective technology, dependent on what is most easy, and most effective. The same technology is used for a light that shows the barcode to the scanner. The scanner must detect it. There would be different fields, for different categories of waste. For example, if the scanner recognises it as a chocolate bar wrapper, it would scan the, ‘chocolate’ field and find an appropriate comment. I thought that I may be able to connect scratch to the bin. I was also thinking of it like a jack in the box. It would use less complex and different technology. By the way, these bins are Heathrow Supported. So, most of the things that are inside, are something to do with Heathrow or planes. I was thinking that when something is put inside the bin, there is an Airbus A380-861 (Emirates Livery) that pops out and glides across. I think that the key to that, is timing, and accurate sensors. I am not sure about how to do the coding part, but I thought that I could combine Python and Scratch, as when I went to the Coding Exhibition, they had a 15 year old, who had combine both those programs to make a robot move. Very complicated. It would have a moving gif image on the front. It would be fully solar panelled. Sorry for the long comment!


    • @Shahzeb: Great stuff, Shahzeb, I especially liked the barcode scanner idea. We missed you & all your ideas last night!


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