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Minnesota ​ test AI program to pull food from waste stream.

Minnesota ​ test AI program to pull food from waste stream. The innovative program ​ collects food scraps from all residents in city and sort more materials from the trash, including food scraps and organic-rich materials. Once the system is up and running to specifications, the food scraps will be composted. Eventually, officials say, the materials will be turned into renewable natural gas.​ Starting this fall, residents of Newport, Cottage Grove, North St. Paul and Maplewood (Minnesota,​ US) will be able to throw away food scraps in special compostable bags. The bags, which are free and will be provided to residents, will be collected on regular trash pickup days at no extra cost. The waste will be taken to the Ramsey/Washington Recycling & Energy Center, rather than delivery via transfer station and sorted by computers programmed to identify the compostable bags. The bags, which come in 6-gallon and 13-gallon sizes, are three times thicker than a normal plastic bag to withstand the sorting process; the average bag weighs 8 pounds. Once the bags are identified, robots will pick them out, separating them from the rest of the garbage. The trash that is left over will then go to the center’s other processing lines.​ The compost bags will be taken out of the waste stream by one of four robotic arms guided by scanners searching the trash as it passes by on conveyor belts. Each robotic arm is capable of 25 to 30 "picks" per minute. The new sorting technology means that 60,000 tons of materials that would have previously been dumped in a landfill or incinerated each year will now be diverted from the waste stream. A staged rollout of the free program will see some 40,000 households in Maplewood, Newport, Cottage Grove and North St. Paul join this fall. By 2026, the food waste should be processed using anaerobic digestion, which will create a renewable natural gas, said Michael Reed, Ramsey County’s division manager for public health and environment.

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