Alberta-made website uses AI to scan your recyclable bottles and estimate worth

WATCH ABOVE: Some Alberta-made technology is making it easier for people to recycle their drink containers. Emily Mertz explains.

An Alberta-designed website uses artificial intelligence to estimate how much your beverage containers would earn you at the bottle depot.

Users can log on to the website with their smartphone or tablet and take a photo of their bags of recycling.

READ MORE: Canada’s recycling industry is on life-support. Here’s how to fix it

“We take our AI model, analyze how big the bag is,” Phil Perron, the company’s founder, explained. “We’ve had a lot of training of our models. We’ve done a lot of testing with different bags, different contents in the bags.

“Then, we are actually able to use that learning to give out an accurate estimate based on the picture that’s uploaded,” he said.

Corral also gives you the option of putting your recyclables up for sale to the highest bidder or donate your bottles to a charity.

“The reason why we created Corral was to bring people together on a new technology platform that would make recycling easier for beverage containers. That’s kind of the start of the company. But we have a lot interest from non-profits and from businesses that are looking to leverage what we have and to really make the way they recycle a lot easier than what it is today.”

READ MORE: Showdown brewing between Toronto, Keurig over pod recyclability

Perron says Albertans recycle about 86 per cent of all beverage containers. He hopes Corral will improve that rate and also provide options for people who can’t get to the depot — or prefer to offer their bottles up for sale.

“We’re finding that the peer-to-peer is kind of exciting people.

“There’s a lot of people who want to recycle but they have limitations. Maybe they don’t have a car or they don’t have time to actually go down to the depot as much as they’d want. They use our technology to actually post it for sale or donation and have pick-up service at their house.”

READ MORE: The losing economics of recycling — Canada’s green industry is deep in the red

The technology also gives residents, businesses and charities a better idea of how much their bottles are worth.

READ MORE: Calgary-based bottle collection app promises users will save time and money

“Today, you either have to go down to the bottle depot with your bags… or you have to empty the bags at your house, sort them and count them and figure out how much it’s all worth,” Perron said.

Using Corral, we give people the ability to actually use their mobile phones and, in under a minute, click that picture, upload it to our site, and have an estimate as to how much their recycling is worth.

“They can decide to not go to the depot that day because it’s only $10 worth and they want to wait until it’s $20.”

READ MORE: With a million recyclable bottles ‘lost’ daily in B.C., would higher deposits help?

The website was launched in April and tested out by family and friends. By mid-May, it was launched publicly and was working with a coffee business in Edmonton and a movie theatre in Calgary.

“We want people to understand that using Corral to analyze and post their orders for sale is really something that can provide value in their lives,” Perron said, “and also expand to charities and non profits to help them do more bottle drive pickups easier.

“Also for businesses as well. If they can find more ways to actually concentrate on the restaurant business — or whatever business they’re in — and leave the recycling to someone else, that’s kind of our goal.”

READ MORE: With millions of coffee cups thrown away in Vancouver every year, advocates push for refund-deposit system

Currently, the AI can analyze bags between 75 and 77 litres but Corral will expand the size limit down the road.

Depending on the bag size, colour, type of beverage containers and quality of the photo, the estimate is usually between 90 and 99 per cent accurate, Perron said.

Watch below (April 30): There’s a tough financial reality for recycling programs in Canada: earning less on the sale of materials and paying more to process what we throw in our blue bins. In Toronto alone, the losses amount to millions.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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