How AI can help recycling?

17-01-2021 | By Sam Brown

Recently, robotics specialists, AMP raised $55 million to advance their robotic systems in the fight further to reduce global waste. What challenges do recycling centres face, who are AMP, and how can they provide a recycling industry solution?

Why is recycling such a large challenge?

Recycling is the practice of obtaining value from waste and junk that no longer serves a purpose. This value could be in the form of money (such as gold extraction from old electronics) or as material (such as the reuse of glass). 

From the surface, it appears that recycling should be a straightforward task; organise rubbish and process it as needed. However, recycling is riddled with issues and can be an extremely complex task for several reasons. 

To start, rubbish must be organised into different material types such as plastics, glass, and metal. However, these categories are not enough to correctly sort materials, and each category has more categories which must be separated. For example, there are many different types of plastics, all of which have different recycling methods. 

Such organising at the source of waste (i.e. our bins), is far too complex due to many categories of material. Instead, users can separate their waste into the three main categories mentioned previously. 

When this waste arrives at the recycling centre, organisation must be done by labourers who are trained in recognising and spotting different types of waste correctly. From there, impurities remain in the organised waste which further introduces complexities into the recycling process.

Furthermore, the use of labour makes recycling costly, and in some instances, can be more expensive than simply using raw materials. Manual labour is also slow and requires environmental conditions suitable for the human body. 

Who is AMP?

AMP Robotics is a company that specialises in waste management with the use of AI and robotic technologies. One of their breakthrough products, AMP Neuron, allows for their robotic systems to use computer vision to identify commonly found recyclable materials while in transit on a conveyor system.

Once identified and catalogued, the AMP robotic systems can then remove the specific piece of material from the conveyor system and place it into the appropriate bin. The ability to identify waste on-the-fly not only allows for efficient sorting of waste, but it also helps to remove the human element from waste sorting.

The system uses various characteristics to identify various forms of rubbish including colour, size, shape, opacity, form factor, brand, and other complex data types that exist on the piece of waste in question. This improves efficiency from the initial waste acceptance (whereby customers do not need to presort rubbish) to the final sorting as all sorting is done at the robotic handling stage.

AMP Robotics Raises Over $55 Million

Global waste is rising, and the ability to efficiently recycle materials is becoming increasingly important. AMP Robotics has demonstrated their ability to sort rubbish, and the ability to increase the quality of the final recyclable materials makes AMP both efficient and valuable.

In a Series B round of funding, AMP Robotics was able to secure $55 million in funding to continue its development of waste sorting systems. Raising such a substantial amount of money demonstrates that interest in recycling is growing, and AI combined with robotics could be the key to the future of recycling. 

Automating recycling and removing the human element from the sorting line allows for increased sorting rates and reduces costs on several fronts. Firstly, labour wages are not needed as robotic systems do not require payment. Secondly, robotic systems can operate in most environments. Thus such spaces do not require environmental controls (i.e. AC), allowing plant operators to save money. 

“We are excited to partner with AMP as Matanya, and the team continue to build an exceptional and category-defining business. AMP’s technology radically improves the economics and efficiency of recycling and creates transformational long-term value for customers, the economy, and the environment." Gaurav Kapadia, founder of XN (investor in Series B funding)

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By Sam Brown