Dubai: A prototype high-tech garbage bin which sorts trash and an app that rewards the user has netted Dh55,000 in prize money for three university student inventors in Dubai.
The three students from the American University in Dubai won the first prize of the UAE finals of Imagine Cup 2017, a worldwide competition organised by US software giant Microsoft.
The competition aims to help youth become entrepreneurs or work in the tech sector.
The project of the three winning students, who are all in their early twenties, solves a problem that is very specific to Dubai — the issue of very little waste being recycled.
“The government is currently trying to increase recycling by having recycling centres placed at municipality buildings,” said Mohammad Hassan, an Egyptian student and the team’s de facto spokesman.
“However, these have limited accessibility for those who recycle.”
There were two others problems that the team — who call themselves ‘Green Jam’ — identified. One is that Dubai residents tend to throw their trash in the wrong designated slots in recycle bins. For example, people often put plastic bottles in a slot designed for metal cans.
“The final problem is that there is no motivation to recycle,” Hassan added.
In response to these issues, their prototype bin, that took them about three weeks to build, senses each piece of garbage and sorts it — and then rewards the user in points through an app.
The team say that the points could theoretically be exchanged for phone or public transport credit — financed by the savings Dubai Municipality would make from no longer having to manually sort recyclable garbage.
“For people who do not want to claim points, it can be seen as a general trash bin, and they throw everything in, and it still will be sorted,” said Hassan.
Minutes before, on a stage at a ballroom at the Burj Khalifa, the three students held up a giant cheque for their prize money. They each received a ticket to the Imagine Cup’s regional semi-finals in May.
The winning team there will then compete with other teams from around the world in Seattle in July.
Can the team win there too? Hassan is not so sure. “I really hope we achieve that. The problem is that our project is so Dubai specific,” he said.
“We’re not sure how other countries will feel about that. But we hope to expand on the project and make it more general to any country.”