Recycling is something many of us take for granted, assuming what we throw in the bin ends up getting recycled properly. But current curbside systems aren't, especially if the or a plastic isn't actually recyclable, so much of what goes into your blue bin can end up in landfill. Enter the Lasso, a home recycling appliance that lets you bypass the curbside system almost completely.
Lasso Loop announced a prototype of its . CNET had the first chance to see a working proof of concept at a maker space in San Mateo, California.
In its current form, the Lasso is a big, gray box. At over 5 feet tall, it's currently too big to fit in your kitchen without some major renovations, but Lasso Loop's chief technology officer Phil Sanders tells me the final version will be smaller. Think countertop height, with a dishwasher on top.
The Lasso accepts and sorts seven different types of materials: PET and HDPE plastic; brown, green and clear glass; aluminum and steel cans. Once you put an item into the machine, sensors and cameras check if it can actually be recycled. As well as scanning the size and shape of the item, cameras also look for any barcodes that can help detect material type. "It takes all those inputs and runs down a flowchart to determine what material it is," Sanders says. If it's not an accepted material, or if there's an issue like you left the bottle cap on, the machine will reject it.
If it passes the test, the Lasso washes the item to remove contaminants and removes any labels. The labels are stored and you'll need to empty them periodically just like you would a lint filter on a dryer. Once clean, materials move to a processor, which grinds up each item and spits the pieces out into separate containers at the bottom of the machine. This helps address one of the biggest problems with the current curbside recycling system: contamination.
"When you think about different materials for recycling you have green glass, clear glass, brown glass, but we think about it all as glass," Dominique Leonard, head of marketing at Lasso tells me. "But these are actually different materials, and they must be kept separate so they can be recycled properly and recycled in a closed-loop, circular economy fashion."
With the materials sorted and broken down into shredded pieces, you wait until the containers are full, then call for a pickup from the Lasso app. The company then collects and resells the material to remanufacturers. You won't be able to get rid of your blue bin altogether, because the Lasso machine we saw doesn't currently take paper, cardboard or other materials just yet. There are plans to have a mixed plastic bin that accepts and stores other types of recyclable plastic beyond PET and HDPE, such as LDPE plastic film.
Like any new appliance, this technology doesn't come cheap. Preorders start at $3,500, and the Lasso will first be available as part of a pilot program in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2023, with broader availability in 2024. The company anticipates early adopters will want to pay for the promise of a closed-loop recycling system, which will eventually bring down the cost for everyone else in the coming years. Offsetting the initial cost with bottle rebates and even a revenue share from the waste collection is something Lasso Loop is considering down the track.
"We want to be everywhere there is a garbage can or recycling bin," says Leonard, when I ask why Lasso Loop is starting with the home market rather than targeting offices, shopping centers or apartment complexes. "We started in the home because that's where the demand is, that's where people are excited and want to use it most on a day-to-day basis."
Lasso Loop says the Lasso will use about the same amount of power as a midrange washing machine, and because it consolidates a lot of the recycling process in one location, it can end up having a much lower carbon footprint. Curbside systems often need to sort items, then ship them to different locations for further processing and recycling.