Recycling is an obtuse process. Throw a can in the bin, the garbage men take it away, and maybe your next can is made from old cans. Or maybe not. You don't know what happens to those cans. Hard enough for adults, but it can make it really hard to explain to kids what's happening when the cans they've been separating disappear.
That's where Dr. R.E. Cycler comes in. The R.E. stands, of course, for "robotic environmentalist." This Short Circuit-esque bot was designed by Florida Robotics  to teach children about recycling. It teaches them by eating the cans they feed it and then crushing them:
The good doctor was first built in May, 2011, in response to a request from Waste Management for "something new and different," says Fay Martin, the owner of Florida Robotics. New and different they certainly got. Nowadays, the solar-powered robot is deployed to get schoolchildren excited about recycling. The robot crushes them to an inch thick and stores them in its belly, where they are later taken away for recycling.
The idea is to make recycling fun and more transparent for young people, to instill in them an ethic of recycling later in life. Florida Robotics is up for a Refresh Project grant  to build a better robot that will crush plastic bottles as well. We imagine that if everyone had a version of Dr. Cycler in their garage, they'd be much more likely to recycle, too.
[Image: Florida Robotics]