NY Times Says “We’re Cooked,” OSCAR–the AI-Powered Recycling Assistant, Recycle For Veterans

by | Feb 4, 2022 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

According to the New York Times, “We’re Cooked,” plus Recycle For Veterans. Meet OSCAR, the AI-Powered Recycling Assistant, and its co-creators, Hassan Murad and Vivek Vyas.



US Marine corporal Kyle Hansen founded Recycle for Vets (RFV) at the age of 25 with fellow Marine, Andrew Levin in 2018 in the San Francisco in the Bay area. During a Marine Corps training exercise in 2017, Hansen suffered severe injuries. During intensive rehabilitation for the injuries he started seeing news headlines that raised the alarm about the great Pacific garbage patch.

The severity of his injuries curtailed Hansen’s career. But as one door closed, another opened. Hansen committed to a new mission: environmental stewardship. An thus Recycle for Veterans was born. 

RFV is a non-profit bringing veterans and civilian volunteers together to serve their communities and the environment through community trash pick-ups. The pandemic shut down volunteer groups in the Bay Area dedicated to managing waste. 

Hansen said, “Everyone stopped because of COVID. So, if anything, it was more important to be out there cleaning then than ever. That’s why we stuck to it.” Leave to the Marines to step into the breech and pick up the slack what regular folks had to stop.

To date, RFV has collected over 15,000 pounds of garbage across five U.S. cities, and it has plans to expand across the country from California to Washington State, North Carolina, and Florida.

Why does Recycle for Veterans matter to us? The same reason it was important for Kyle Hansen to start RFV. “I wanted to build a community that allowed people to have a purpose again.” After all, cleaning up litter is not just about fighting for the climate, it’s a way to create a deeper sense of community. 

DEEPER DIVE: RFV, San Francisco Examiner



If you don’t subscribe to the New York Times, you may not be aware of some of the great wo rk its doing in video. Its latest is a three-part video series called, “We’re Cooked’ and it’s part of the NYT’s Opinion Video series. “We’re Cooked was reported on, produced, edited and directed by Kirk Semple, Adam Westbrook, and Jonah M. Kessel.

According to the NYT, the three part series is about America’s “broken food system and the three chances you get to help fix it–and save the planet–every day.”

Part One, “Meet the People Getting Paid to Kill Our Planet” released two days ago. It introduces us to the American agricultural lobby. Thanks to Kessel, Westbrook and Semple–they expose two major reasons why Big Ag has been spared major environmental regulation.  First, Big Ag is increasingly dominated by very large corporations, and second those corporations have the resources to fund very effective lobbyists.

Part Two is scheduled to drop on February 8th. It’s titled, “See the True Cost of Your Cheap Chicken.” And why does this three-part expose on Big Ag’s refusal to join the fight to fight climate change matter to us? Well it’s all in the title of Part Three of the series. That one’s called, “Sorry to Bug You, but There are Solutions.” Check it out beginning February 15th.

In the meantime, and I’m quoting the NYT “We’re Cooked” intro here, “…pull up a chair at the lobbyists’ lunch table. Juicy, expensive steak is on the menu. If you’re a taxpayer in the United States, try your best to enjoy it. After all, considering agriculture’s enormous public subsidies and the harm the industry is doing to your land, air and water, it’s you who will ultimately be picking up the tab.”

Visit NYT.com and search for “Opinion Video Series” and then search for “We’re Cooked,” or just click on the link in the Deeper Dive Section of this story at theclimate.org/episodes.



Throwing away your trash at the Burlington Center mall in Burlington Canada, west of Toronto, just got interactive.

OSCAR sort is an AI-powered recycling assistant designed by Intuitive AI. There are three centralized zero-touch, zero-waste stations around the shopping center, intended to gamify recycling. Studies have proven gamifying mundane tasks motivates people to continue to do them. The goal in gamifying recycling is to boost diversion.

More importantly, the system is designed to solve the problem of contamination in recycling bins. Contaminated recycling doesn’t get recycled. It ends up in landfills, or worse, in the ocean. The new system complements Burlington Center’s current in-place recycling programs and the organic waste collection.

According to their website, when OSCAR sees a person approach with trash in their hands, it recognizes the object and notifies the person in which bin to throw it. If they get it right, Oscar is designed to reward them–possibly with a coupon. If the recycler puts an item in the wrong bin though, well, Oscar gets a bit grouchy.

Why does Oscar Sort matter to us? Anything that makes recycling fun, and more precise, with rewards? No brainer! 

DEEPER DIVE:  T-Net, The Star, The Atlantic



Hassan Murad and Vivek Vyas co-founded Intuitive AI, the makers of OSCAR Sort. Why did they found it? Well, in 2014, Simon Fraser University’ students and staff lobbied for composting at the university. In response, the school developed the Zero Waste Initiative. Three years later, in 2017 Murad and Vyas founded Intuitive AI.

Their first invention, OSCAR, is a system designed to solve the problem of contamination in recycling bins on SFU’s SURREY campus. Contaminated recycling doesn’t get recycled. It ends up in landfills, or worse, in the ocean. OSCAR uses a display screen and powerful AI camera to identify and distinguish recycling from trash and instruct users which bin to use when disposing of their waste. Oscar’s Artificial Intelligence helps it learn in real time and also helps it adapt to both changes in local regulations and in packaging.

OSCAR may help  SFU Surrey to reduce its recycling contamination rate from 60 to 20 per cent. Said Murad, “We were excited to place OSCAR here and give back to our community.” 

Why does Intuitive AI matter to us? Their first product, OSCAR has been proven to help increase recycling by up to 300 percent. What a great example of positive Climate change action!!

DEEPER DIVE: Venture Beat, Intuitive, Forbes