By Makenzie O'Keefe

LAFAYETTE, Colo. (CBS4)– A 16-year-old student in Colorado has started an effort to make recycling easier for the community. He has invented an app called ReDetect, that identifies which items should be recycled, and what should be thrown in the trash.

(credit: CBS)

“Whole batches of recyclable objects are being contaminated by non-recyclable objects,” explained teenager Andrew Woen, the creator of ReDetect. “And recycling centers are being forced to put in more resources to sort through the waste.”

(credit: CBS)

Woen is a junior at Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette. This past fall, he entered the Congressional App Challenge for Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District. The challenge gives high school students the opportunity to create a unique app while also learning new coding skills. Woen’s app won first place.

Andrew Woen

Andrew Woen (credit: CBS)

“I was just so excited. I was exhausted and so tired, but when I heard I won I was like, ‘Thank you,’” Woen told CBS4.

(credit: Andrew Woen)

His app, ReDetect, tells users what items can be recycled through image recognition and machine learning. Users can take a photo of an item, and it will detect whether or not the item can be recycled. He said it can identify plastic bottles, aluminum, and plastic bags.

(credit: CBS)

Woen told CBS4 he started working on the app, with the hope that it would help address climate change.

(credit: CBS)

“Recycling is a great way to reduce the energy needed to produce new items,” he explained. “And it also reduces the amount of pollution we emit.”

(credit: CBS)

Woen said building the app was a new challenge, but one that used his hobbies to create something good for others.

“A lot of my time was spent banging my head on my desk trying to figure out what was the best way to actually create the detection,” he said, laughing. “People my age can just make an impact by taking what they love, and trying to connect it to the bigger picture.”

(credit: CBS)

The teen said he wants to make the app available on the app store to help others recycle more often.

Makenzie O'Keefe