Artificial intelligence, a lever towards better sorting at source


How can artificial intelligence help consumers to better sort their waste?


In order to eliminate doubts about how to sort packaging, Fost Plus is working on an innovation project to integrate AI into the website A scan of the packaging will tell consumers how to sort that specific packaging material. Although the project is still in its infancy, it is part of a broader innovation track for the entire recycling chain.

Everyone has doubts about sorting from time to time. Certainly when it comes to packaging that we use less frequently. Recent research has shown that toothpaste, aluminium trays of ready meals and metal aerosols are the most frequent sources of doubt. The website already offers a solution. But there is always room for improvement. That is why Fost Plus is working on the integration of artificial intelligence which, in time, should reveal the correct sorting instructions based on a scan of the packaging.


Collecting test data

Fost Plus teamed up with technology company ML6. Based on readily available information about sorting, an algorithm was programmed. To train artificial intelligence, however, you need data, lots of data. The system must be able to recognise packaging with and without a barcode in very different circumstances and environments. Think of a crumpled package, a dirty package or bad lighting. The accuracy of the AI is determined by tests with test data, which in this case are packages with sorting instruction that you are 100% sure of. If a large amount of test data is processed by the algorithm and the prediction is always the same as the actual outcome, then the system is as smart as the specialist within those parameters.

In order to obtain relevant test data on a large scale, Sortscan was developed: a crowdsourcing platform to collect more real consumer data faster. In other words, packaging in the state in which we throw it away. In order to collect as much data as possible, we use gamification. Sortscan is a game where the user is challenged to beat the AI by uploading pictures of packaging and suggesting a sorting instruction. The app will be launched in the coming time in the App Store and via Google Play.


A high-performance recycling chain starts with the way consumers sort. With door-to-door collection and a simple sorting message, we try to make this as easy as possible for them. Nevertheless, there will always be sorting doubts. Digital solutions and new technologies allow us to offer customised solutions and further innovate the recycling chain.

Improving processes step by step

Innovation is a driver of Fost Plus operations. After all, innovation offers added value in operational efficiency and opens doors. Fost Plus has already launched a pilot project with artificial intelligence in the sorting centres, which should allow us to improve our processes and maintain our high quality standards. The ultimate goal there is to gradually improve the sorting processes via machine learning. With the integration of AI in we want to ensure that a maximum number of packages already end up in the right fraction for collection.


Want to learn more about how technological advances can improve sorting? Download our White Paper (in French and in Dutch).