Trashbot is going to clean up city hall in Pittsburgh |

Trashbot is going to clean up city hall in Pittsburgh

Aaron Aupperlee
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
The second Trashbot is showed being constructed inside of AlphaLab Gear in East Liberty on Wednesday, June 7, 2017.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
The exterior of the first Trashbot is displayed inside of AlphaLab Gear in East Liberty on Wednesday, June 7, 2017. Parts of the first Trashbot are being used to build the second.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Grant Halleran shows the design for the new Trashbot at AlphaLab Gear in East Liberty on Wednesday, June 7, 2017.

The smartest thing in Pittsburgh’s city hall this summer might be the trash can in the lobby.

CleanRobotics will test the latest version of Trashbot, a trash can that uses robotics and artificial intelligence to sort recyclables from waste bound for the landfill, in the lobby of the City-County Building on Grant Street as part of the city’s PGH Lab program.

“Waste is a nasty problem. People don’t want to think about it,” said Charles Yhap, CleanRobotics’ CEO, who was drawn to the company because it applied advanced technologies to garbage.

Trashbot has already proven to be better than humans at sorting trash and recycling, Yhap said. CleanRobotics did a two-and-a-half week trial with the first version of Trashbot at a company in Pittsburgh. It’s sorting accuracy was 81 percent. Humans score about 30 percent, Yhap said.

The Mayor’s Office on Tuesday announced that CleanRobotics is among five companies selected to participate in the second round of the PGH Lab program . The program gives Pittsburgh startups a chance to test their products on problems facing city government. They work with city staff and officials, receive guidance and mentoring and have access to coworking spaces and startup accelerator services. They do not receive any funding from the city.

Annia Aleman, manager of the PGH Lab program, said the mission of CleanRobotics aligned with the city’s goal of diverting more waste to recycling instead of landfills.

“This is what’s exciting about our local entrepreneurs,” Aleman said. “Ideas that are being developed in Pittsburgh are unique and interesting.”

She said Trashbot is a completely different program than the 400 to 500 smart garbage cans that sense how full they are that City Council approved last month.

A robotic chute inside Trashbot directs the waste into trash or recycling bins. There are sensors at the bottom of the chute and a camera on the lid to identify the waste. It is then compared against a growing database of waste photos and data. The more waste it scans, the better the software becomes at sorting it, Yhap said.

Squeegees at the bottom of the chute keep the sensors clean, said Jayant Sharma, a recent Carnegie Mellon University graduate who is managing the project.

CleanRobotics was founded in 2015. The company went through the AlphaLab Gear program and still works out of the accelerator’s East Liberty space. Anand Sankar and Grant Halleran are still students at CMU and assisting Sharma this summer.

The three said that even though classmates are working on projects like self-driving cars or for top robotics firms, working with trash is rewarding.

“What we build, we can see working,” Sankar said.

“And we definitely have more of an impact,” Halleran added.

The team hopes to have Trashbot version two ready and in place in the City-County Building by the end of June.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected], 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.