A Master of Science thesis in Electrical Engineering by Uzma Ahmed Din entitled, “A Robotic System for Automatic Identification and Collection of Recyclable Plastic Bottles”, submitted in May 2020. Thesis advisors are Dr Shayok Mukhopadhyay and Dr. Usman Tariq. Soft copy is available (Thesis, Approval Signatures, Completion Certificate, and AUS Archives Consent Form).
Plastics have become a cornerstone of modern life, but they are also hazardous for the environment. Manually collecting and sorting such recyclable plastic waste from a mix of other refuse is tedious work, and has accompanying health hazards. This project develops a prototype autonomous robot that can identify, and collect plastic bottles from other waste, and return to recycling stations. The focus of this prototype is on the recognition and separation of a particular type of plastic bottle commonly used for packaging drinking water. In this work, the robot navigates to a general location where such plastic waste is expected to be found via GPS based navigation. Then, the robot recognizes recyclable plastic bottles, and computes the coordinates of the plastic bottle with respect to the robot, using a stereo camera. Finally, using a robotic arm attached to it, the robot collects the plastic bottle. This thesis does not focus on developing an appropriate gripper to pick up a bottle as it is out of the scope of the current work. To aid the picking process, the end-effector and bottles are fitted with small magnetic attachments. Moreover, the robot developed is 80% and 67% successful, in indoor and outdoor testing respectively. The future versions of the proposed robot may be advanced to segregate the collected plastic bottle waste into appropriate bins located at a recycling station.