RFID For Efficient Waste Management

System Overview

An independent, wireless, embedded hardware based interface for classifying five varieties of plastic with the help of RFID and an automatic sorting system has been developed. Computational modules ported on the embedded system successfully interpret and processes the information obtained plastic. Based on the command signal, electro-pneumatic actuators are activated to eject classified plastics into their respective bins. With the help of an efficient wireless transmission medium, the details of the classification are relayed wirelessly to a remote monitoring location.


Plastics are organic polymers made from synthetic or semi-synthetic materials that can be molded and reshaped under pressure or heat. They have found applicability in a wide and an ever expanding range of products, from common consumables like textiles, bottles, carry-bags to special items like aerospace moldings, because of their durability, low cost and ease of production. According to a United Nations study , the global plastic consumption has increased manifold from 5.5 million tons in the 1950s to 110 million tons in 2009. The study also shows that even in developed nations like the United States of America, only 6.5 percent of the plastics used are recycled and 7.7 percent combusted to generate energy in the form of electricity or heat. The plastic wastes which are not recycled end up as landfills and marine debris in oceans. It is believed that globally about 1 billion tonnes of plastic has been discarded in the last 50 years. Since plastics are durable and degrade slowly, they may persist in nature for hundreds if not thousands of years. Plastic pollutants often seep into soil & water, contaminate them and threaten the health and safety of humans, livestock & marine life. Recycling of plastics is therefore vital.

RFID For Efficient Waste Management


Plastics are widely used non-biodegradable materials which have to be recycled economically and efficiently. For efficient recycling of plastics different types of polymer materials have to be identified and segregated. Economic aspects mandate that the plastic be identified and sorted instantaneously. In this work the (RFID) has been used for the instantaneous and on-line identification of consumer plastics. RFID enables quick monitoring & identification of plastic under investigation. To realize the above, a low cost embedded system, capable of automating the process of plastic sorting, has been developed. Further, a wireless interface, capable of controlling the RFID instrumentation remotely, has been implemented to safeguard personnel from the unhygienic environments prevalent in plastic recycling plants.

Key Features And Benefits Of The System

Some of the key features and advantages the current system are listed below.

1.      Automated, low cost device which can sort all groups of plastic material by pattern recognition.

2.      Robust and indigenously integrated system capable of handling the vagaries of Indian environmental conditions.

3.      Sorting of singulated plastics through non-destructive methods for efficient recycling (Wealth from waste).

4.      Provision of wireless interface for remote, safe handling and monitoring of the system.

Wireless Module

In order to control and monitor the system remotely, XBee RF modules which follow the IEEE 802.15.4 protocol, have been used. XBee RF modules are embedded solutions providing wireless end-point connectivity to devices. These modules use the IEEE 802.15.4 networking protocol for fast point-to-multipoint or peer -to-peer networking. They are designed for high-throughput applications requiring low latency and predictable communication timing. XBee modules are ideal for low-power, low-cost applications. These modules are easy-to-use, share a common footprint, and are fully interoperable with other XBee products utilizing the same technology.


In this paper we presented our work on developing an affordable and efficient method that can sort different categories of plastics quickly and accurately. The innovation which applies RFID for sorting plastic material can satisfy a very important requirement of an efficient waste management system. Further, a wireless/GDM interface has been provided to control the system remotely and keep the operating personnel away from unhygienic and hazardous environments.