Low Cost Waste Sorter

December 27, 2011
School of Engineering, Amritapuri

Can a student project really change the world?

It seems that it can. The Amrita students who designed a Low Cost Waste Sorter Using Eddy Current Separator have set out to do just that.

Athira S., Sreeja K., Neha Tadimeti, Usha Unnikrishnan and Amritha K. K., second-year B.Tech. students of Electronics and Communication Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at Amritapuri, recently won the third prize in IBM/IEEE Smarter Planet Challenge: Student Projects Changing the World competition.


They were awarded US $1000; the students will also receive support from IBM for implementing their world-changing solution.

“We were motivated by Chancellor Amma’s Amala Bharatam Campaign,” shared the winning students. “So many people were involved in collecting and sorting trash. Sorting was necessary to retrieve anything of value that could be recycled. Manually sorting trash is very labor-intensive; hence we wanted to design something that could help with this effort.”

The all-women team explained the technical details of their award-winning design.

“In our system, waste is initially fed into a blower, after which it passes through four different sorting units namely, eddy current separator, triboelectric electrostatic separator, air classification unit and ion bombardment electrostatic separator.”


“First, the eddy current separator separates out non-ferrous metals from inert materials. Even the smallest bits of ferrous metals are eliminated with this magnetic separator. The metal-free feed is then sent to the triboelectric separator. This uses the difference in the Coulomb forces acting on plastic waste, after triboelectric charging, to separate those out.”

“The feed is now sent to the air classification unit where paper, dust and cloth can be separated out. Next, in the final unit, the ion bombardment electrostatic separator, glass is filtered out and the rest is collected in a separate container.”

“When implemented, our Low Cost Waste Sorter can quickly and efficiently help with sorting waste into various categories like metal, hard plastic, soft plastic, cloth and paper.”

The students were in their first-year of engineering studies when they researched available solutions over a few months to prepare their low-cost design that can be built using locally available materials.

IBM/IEEE Smarter Planet Challenge

The IBM/IEEE Smarter Planet Challenge: Student Projects Changing the World competition was co-sponsored by IBM and IEEE. “We wanted to provide an opportunity to teams of university students to bring the world’s most compelling social and commercial challenges into the classroom. Solutions would require technological expertise, an understanding of business principles and an appreciation for the social implications of innovation,” stated the organizers.

Amrita students not only took up the challenge successfully; they will now strive to ensure that their design indeed changes the world.

We wish them the best of luck!

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