Reconnai: How it all started
You probably know the feeling: you move to a new area, bring all your belongings in boxes and create a huge mess whilst trying to settle at your new place. After finally organizing all your furniture and putting everything in the right cabinets, you now need to throw away a bunch of items that you no longer need. And then it hits you.. What goes where? The rules are different compared to your old neighborhood! Especially if you moved to Japan, you will probably have received a huge chart with recycling instructions that nobody understands.
And so this too happened to Wilson; upon first arriving in Tokyo he received the notorious chart of waste separation rules. Like most foreigners arriving in a foreign country, he was overwhelmed – not because it was written in Japanese but because the instructions were unclear and incomplete. And to top it off, it will become more complicated in the future since the Japanese government is planning to collect all 7 types of plastics separately. To his surprise, he shares the same frustration with people living in other cities because different cities have different rules. As he shared his dilemma with his friend, Lie Ping, a solution came to their mind: “what if there was an app that helps people to sort their waste”. As the idea grew, he found an opportunity to work with his friend. However, Lie Ping decided to focus on renewable energy and Wilson directed his attention to the idea of a plastic sorting app. Venturing on his own, Wilson founded Reconnai.
Before quitting his job, Wilson had always thought of contributing to society. Looking at the world around him, he realizes an urgent matter – climate change. At first he had the craziest of ideas, such as doglike robots to clean up the beach, penguin robots which can dive underwater to clean up plastics, or flying robots to capture CO2. As an enthusiastic Robotics engineer he had plenty of ideas, but no good understanding of the problem. So he started to talk to sustainability experts in the field and started pitching ideas to competitions to better understand the problem and to find out how he could best contribute to a solution. After getting most of his ideas shot down by experts and competition judges, he finally found a problem that needs urgent attention and to which his skillset could contribute to an effective solution, namely plastic pollution and recycling contamination in particular.
Recycling contamination occurs when materials are sorted into the wrong recycling bin, for example – placing a glass bottle into a mixed paper recycling bin, or when materials are not properly cleaned. This is because a majority of the population is unaware that recycling becomes more difficult and time-consuming when the waste is not properly segregated. Contaminated recyclables are harmful for the recycling machines and either decrease their value, making them harder to sell, or end up in landfill. As waste segregation is a prerequisite to proper garbage disposal – Wilson’s solution was to design an app that could tell people to separate waste properly and let people know how much waste they have produced. He hopes to help people to recycle better, but also to encourage people to reuse more if possible and above all, reduce.
Reconnai is developing an AI-based app that instructs users to properly discard their waste. Users can take a picture on their phone, and the AI analyzes the waste and provides detailed instructions to properly discard the plastic waste. As the discarded waste reaches the local waste plant, a similar AI will analyze if the users have sorted their waste correctly. They will then receive feedback and rewards through Reconnai’s brand partners. Wilson wanted to make waste sorting easier for everyone – students, foreigners, and parents etc. He also wanted to make it easier for companies to monitor and analyze waste streams and improve garbage collection processes. The goal is for users to build long-term habits on proper waste disposal and lessen the impact of plastic contamination and pollution.
Currently, Reconnai is in its ideation phase and moving into the Proof of Concept (PoC) phase. The ideation phase involves generating ideas and solutions, market research, understanding customer requirements, and obtaining feedback from climate experts. The importance of this stage is that it determines how desirable a product is to its target market. The result of this process is essential for Reconnai to serve its purpose as a partner and ally in the fight against climate change, and to be able to build a useful solution that can solve the problem effectively during the PoC phase. Wilson hopes for a future where waste segregation and recycling are integrated into everyday tasks. He believes that Reconnai can serve a proper role in the awareness of recycling contamination and proper plastic segregation. But for now, Reconnai plans to conquer waste pollution one plastic at a time.