In the computer generated waste land of Wall-E, a garbage-collecting robot is the last survivor on Earth, hoarding quaint treasures from the trash in a dogged attempt to find some slice of happiness amidst the ecological devastation left behind by consumerism. In real-life Italy, where a noxious mafia-run waste industry has turned some landscapes post-apocalyptic, scientists have proposed a new solution to picking up the trash: the googly-eyed Dust Cart robot.
It may not solve Italy's garbage problems, but its inventors hope it might make garbage collection cleaner and more efficient, and reduce trash pile-ups. But would it actually work? Video below.
One Italian commenter on the video raises the concern about the likelihood of vandalism of a street robot; another wonders if it could end up in Naples, which last year suffered through seven months without trash removal. Something tells us the robot might end up in the Gulf of Naples with concrete treads.
Global Post reports a slightly happier outlook for the robot in Peccioli and other Italian towns with small streets, which garbage trucks tend to have trouble navigating :
Once the robot arrived, it asked for a personal ID number that both identifies the user and tracks the garbage. It also asked for the kind of trash being dumped — organic, recyclable or waste. DustCart then opened its belly bin, collected the trash and took it to a fake dumping site...
Besides replacing the garbage man, Dario said DustCart could also be an answer to the noise pollution that comes with traditional trash collection in Italy. In cities like Rome, for example, noisy trucks collect garbage in the middle of night.
To solve that problem, DustCart runs on a silent, lithium-battery operated engine...
DustCart is part of a project called "DustBot," a $3.9 million research program that started in 2006 to implement robotics in society in useful ways, such as cleaning the streets.
It was given a friendly look to encourage interaction with humans. But for some Italians, who believe in drying their shirts on clothes lines even in December and still look at microwaves with suspicion, the idea of handing their trash to robots seems a little too advanced — or odd. Even in Peccioli.
What Italy needs probably isn't a robot, but a better recycling plan, more incinerators and more dumps, to say nothing of a serious take-down of the mob's monopoly over the waste industry.
The trash robot might have a life beyond garbage. Already, it doubles as a mobile (and cute) pollution monitor.
The robot is also equipped with special sensors that monitor air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, ozone, benzene, CO, CO2 and air temperature.
"A fleet of DustCarts could send precise data on the air we breathe, in real time," said Barbara Mazzolai, DustCart Project Manager.
More on Garbage at TreeHugger
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EU Tells Italy To Take Out The Trash, Already
Italian Government Promises to Resolve "Tragedy of the Trash"
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