Tagging technology to track trash
The ebb and flow of thousands of pieces of household rubbish are to be tracked using sophisticated mobile tags.
It is hoped that making people confront the final journey of their waste will make them reduce what they throw away.
Initially, 3,000 pieces of rubbish, donated by volunteers, will be tagged in New York, Seattle and London.
"Trash is almost an invisible system today," Assaf Biderman, one of the project leaders at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told BBC News.
"You throw something into the garbage and a lot of us forget about it. It gets buried, it gets burned, it gets shipped overseas."
The Trash Track aims to make that process - termed the "removal chain" - more transparent.
Friends of the Earth's Senior Waste Campaigner Michael Warhurst said the project could be a "useful tool" for highlighting the impact of rubbish.
"[Waste] doesn't simply disappear when we throw it away, and all too often it ends up causing damage when it could be recycled instead.
"People must have much better information on - and control over - where their rubbish and recycling ends up."
In order to monitor how the pieces of rubbish move around the cities and beyond, the MIT team has developed a small mobile sensor that can be attached to individual pieces of waste.
"It's like a miniature cell phone with limited functionality," said Carlo Ratti, another member of the project.
Each tag - encased in a protective resin - continuously broadcasts its location to a central server. The results can then be collected and plotted on a map in real time.
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