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A recycling plant for the home

UK-based start-up Lasso Loop Recycling is working on a machine that collects, cleans and sorts garbage for recycling, that resembles an everyday kitchen appliance.
The concept behind the Lasso prototype features a vertical slot or tray for depositing items. A series of cameras and sensors will then analyse the packaging and decide if it’s recyclable. If it isn’t then the object will be returned.

Otherwise, the material will be steam-cleaned to remove leftover food, grease, dirt and labels. Finally, it will be ground down and placed in a dedicated compartment at the bottom of the Lasso. When one or all of these boxes are full, a smartphone app will organize a kerbside collection. A driver can then pick it up, confident that the materials can be used to create new products.

Recycling is like washing clothes

Theoretically, if Lasso was to be taken up with the scale of refrigerators for example and installed in every home, it would eliminate recycling plants. The waste collection boxed within the machine would then be redistributed to manufacturers and turned into new products that don’t require any additional materials.

In a TedTalk last month Lasso CEO, Aldous Hicks said that everyone should treat recycling like washing clothes and dishes.

“Millions of households are already practicing the exact steps we need to take. For example, we use our washing machines to clean our clothes, so we can re-use them over and over again. Clearly, we already harness technology to process our household items. So why not a domestic recycling appliance?”

Downside

There are, however, disadvantages to the Lasso concept. The company is targeting seven materials at the moment, aluminium and steel, as well as two plastics and three types of glass. Paper and cardboard, which are used for most online orders aren’t included.

Pricing such a product could be an issue, too. Hicks told tech site, Engadget that its prototype should be completed by April. Although, the company has is taking reservations on its site, there’s no deposit or RRP at the moment.

The final version is likely to be ready around 2023, and Hicks advised it could cost in the region of $3,500. That’s awfully expensive, but so were refrigerators when they first came on the market. Success will come if for instance the world’s largest appliance company Haier (which owns Fisher and Paykel) decides to invest or develop a similar product. It could quickly achieve scale through existing appliance channels.

On its website, Lasso indicates that the price could be offset by recycling payments. It claims that customers could “receive cash returns within five years of ownership, subject to your consumption.”