Can earthworm-sized robots help recycle trash?

Michelle Basch,

WASHINGTON — The most recent “Transformers” movie features a creature that looks like a huge robotic worm. It’s called the “Driller,” and it bores through everything in its path including entire buildings.

Now imagine if humans built loads of earthworm-sized robots that could eat garbage and automatically collect what could still be useful.

“They would just go through landfills and extract anything of value and digest it, and turn whatever remained into quality topsoil,” says Patrick Tucker, spokesman for the Bethesda-based World Future Society.

The creation of robotic recycling earthworms is one of the society’s top 10 predictions for 2012 and beyond.

“Only now are we really beginning to realize the importance and the value of all the material that we throw away,” Tucker says.

Discarded cell phones and other electronics contain valuable metals such as copper and gold, and many plastics are made of petroleum.

“Those components could get additional use if we just extracted them, but nobody really wants that job and it’s really hard,” says Tucker.

He says in addition to robot worms, a real-life version of the movie robot WALL-E could also be helpful.

Here’s the full list of the World Future Society’s predictions.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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