scorecardSorting out recycling from trash is the perfect example of a job few people want to do that AI is better than humans at
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Sorting out recycling from trash is the perfect example of a job few people want to do that AI is better than humans at

Haley Tenore   

Sorting out recycling from trash is the perfect example of a job few people want to do that AI is better than humans at
Tech2 min read
  • Artificial intelligence and automation are impacting some jobs that humans don't always want to do.
  • Robots are being used to sort through waste at recycling centers to combat worker shortages.

Many workers are understandably concerned that AI could steal their jobs. But AI could also help do tasks that many people don't want to do, and a recent profile on the technology's impact on the job of sorting out recycling from trash is the perfect example of that.

Working in waste management can be a dirty job, and recycling facilities across the country are facing major labor shortages, The Wall Street Journal reported.

AI is being implemented in recycling facilities to sort out recyclable materials. AI and automation are helping assuage worker shortages, as some facilities only have 20% of positions filled, one expert told The Journal. The bots are also doing a better job at sorting out recyclables than human workers in some cases.

"They don't need breaks. They don't go on vacation. They can work double shifts," Suzanne Jones, executive director of the nonprofit organization Eco-Cycle, told The Journal.

As it turns out, AI is oftentimes more skilled at sorting out recyclables than human workers. AI bots can sort 80 pieces of recyclable material a minute, compared to humans who can sort out 50 to 80 pieces a minute, according to The Journal. Optical sorters blow both human workers and AI-powered bots out of the water and are able to sort up to 1,000 pieces of recycled trash a minute, The Journal reported.

The trash-sorting example follows advancements in robotics in other fields that require physical tasks. In the food industry, for example, Chipotle recently implemented a robot called Hyphen that is able to prepare burrito bowls and salads. A Chick-fil-A location also welcomed a delivery robot, named Wall-E, onto its team to wait on customers. Chains like Domino's Mcdonald's and White Castle are also using AI to make order-taking a more efficient process.

Even though AI may change the way some recycling facilities and restaurants look, blue-collar jobs are generally considered to be safe from being overtaken by AI entirely. Most of the jobs that could look different due to AI are white-collar fields — including tech, legal, and finance. These jobs may not necessarily be replaced, but AI could change how they look by automating certain processes.




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