Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Dr Jose Berengueres with the recycling bin which he and his team developed at the UAE University. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Dr Jose Berengueres with the recycling bin which he and his team developed at the UAE University. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Grin and bear your bottles to UAE recycling bank

Sound of clinking coins and smiley face makes recycling fun.

Students and staff from UAE University have made the mundane task of recycling a much more rewarding, and fun, experience.

A team headed by Dr Jose Berengueres, assistant professor at the university, gave the traditional recycling bin used to collect plastic bottles a makeover using an emoticon – a pictorial representation of an emotion – to encourage users to recycle.

And what better way to encourage people than with a smile.

Once a polythene terephthalate (Pet) bottle is placed into the recycling bank, the device makes the sound of clinking coins and a smiley face appears on an LCD screen above it.

"A lot of research shows that this works," said Dr Berengueres, who believes simple, fun rewards work better than offers of cash or other material incentives.

The team's tests to see whether the "smiling bin" would encourage more people to recycle proved positive.

Over the course of four weeks, 103 bottles were collected in a normal recycling bin placed in the lobby of the university's IT department building. Weekly numbers over the period varied from a low of 25 to a high of 27 bottles.

This was compared with the new-look "smiling bin" placed in the same location from another four weeks. The new bin collected 360 bottles. The lowest number of bottles collected within a week in that period was 85, the most was 95.

For Dr Berengueres, the findings were not surprising . "We used just a smile and it has been a huge success."

The bin took five weeks to conceive and produce. The modification cost about Dh1,500 – the cost of a simple computer, a sensor to detect bottles being placed inside and the LCD screen displaying the emoticon.

Emirati student Fatma Al Suwairi wrote the software code that produced the smiley face response. Two other students, Huda Al Hameidy and Alia Al Mazrouei, helped count the bottles collected.

The team is now testing another device, produced with the help of Tony Ng, instructor for enterprise systems at the university, this time at a lower cost by using an Android tablet.

It is being tested at Al Ain's Al Raqia high school.

"Nearly 300 bottles were collected within the first two weeks of the experiment and the team is expecting data for the next two weeks," said Dr Berengueres, who is presenting the findings at a robotics conference in Japan next month.

The team is working on further improvements to reduce the cost of its system. Dr Berengueres is also talking to government authorities and businesses about rolling out similar devices.

"Our system can raise awareness of recycling without spending money on ads, also it is visual so it's cross-cultural," he said.

The UAE has one of the world's highest waste-generation rates and very little of that waste is recycled.

Studies carried out in 2010 estimated that Abu Dhabi residents produced between 1.8kg and 2.4kg per person per day. If the trajectory remains the same, the Abu Dhabi Government could be spending as much as Dh22 billion a year on waste management by 2030.

vtodorova@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Shah Rukh Khan performs at the IPL Gala dinner to open IPL VII at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi.

In pictures: Shah Rukh Khan stars at IPL Gala dinner in Abu Dhabi

The superstar entertainer Shah Rukh Khan on stage last night at a gala dinner to launch the Indian Premier League cricket tournament.

No words can describe this April 17, your captions will

Have a catchy caption for this picture. Share it with us and we might publish it and reward you.

 The year-long project aims to create a form of social autobiography — the story of Dubai documented by those who know it best, the people who live there.

Zoom in! This is your Dubai in a single image

On our sixth birthday, we are all about pictures. So here is our #mydubai offering. Using zoom.it, explore the city.

 This Dh17,000 Miele system can prepare your choice of coffee - from capuccino to espresso - at a touch of a button. Pawan Singh / The National

In pictures: Miele puts art in coffee making

Miele has devoted itself to the art of preparing the black liquid with its beautifully designed coffee machines, living up to its mantra of turning kitchens into cafés.

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 Amir Khan, during a workout at the Gloves Community Centre on March 24, 2014 in Bolton, England, says his fight will be the real main event in Las Vegas on May 3. Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Amir Khan says bout with Luis Collazo ‘will steal the show’ in Las Vegas on May 3

British-Pakistani boxer Amir Khan says his fight with Luis Collazo will be the main attraction on same fight card led by Floyd Mayweather Jr and Marcos Maidana, writes Omar Al Raisi.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National