Recycling is a worthy environmental effort; however, it has always had one big problem, getting a “purity” level of recycled materials that is high enough for them to be reused by manufacturers. The problem is the tedious process of sorting through recycled trash to get the choice of materials, which is now done almost entirely by hand. However, experimental robots driven by AI are offering a solution to what has been one of recycling’s biggest problems.

NBC News recently reported on the AI-robots that are being beta-tested at a materials recovery facility (MRF) in Boulder, CO.

Using machine learning, the sorting robots were able to acquire the ability to distinguish between different materials, accurately identifying pieces of plastic among sheets of paper and then efficiently separating them. This also increases accuracy and speeds while reducing manual labor requirements. By seamlessly integrating AI into recycling processes, this facility is paving the way for more efficient and effective recycling practices.

The automated sorting systems being used in Boulder are from AMP Robotics.

Similar sorting systems have been deployed in MRFs in Michigan that use AI-driven optical technology to provide real-time data about waste stream contaminants — such as too much peanut butter left in a jar — and other metrics that are just being explored. “It’s giving us this data so that we can make better decisions,” says Matt Flechter, recycling market development specialist at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, which is experimenting with these robotic sorters that are made by Machinex, Glacier an AI-startup that raised $4.5 million in seed funding last year to building a “proprietary AI algorithm that’s capable of recognizing over 90% of recyclables in the waste stream.”

Fletcher says leveraging AI will not only improve recycling on the back end through better sorting, but the data-driven models also will help manufacturers to create more recyclable packaging in the first place.

“The vision will be, we will have real-time data about products to bring to the manufacturer, so they can say, ‘Oh, we created a toothpaste tube that we thought was recyclable, but it turns out at the facilities the robots can’t pick it up,'” Fletcher told Axios.

Recycle Ann Arbor installed a sorting robot from Machinex called the SamurAI at its new MRF in November. The robot took three months to “learn” the shapes, sizes, and densities of the materials before it was put into operation.

How BigRio Helps Bring Advanced AI Solutions to Improve All Industries

The deployment of the Glacier and other proprietary “recycling robots.”

is yet another example of how innovative startups are advancing the ubiquity of AI and particularly how it is creating smarter and more capable industrial robots.

BigRio prides itself on being a facilitator and incubator for such advances in leveraging AI to improve the digital world.

In fact, we like to think of ourselves as a “Shark Tank for AI.”

If you are familiar with the TV series, then you know that, basically, what they do is hyper-accelerate the most important part of the incubation process – visibility. You can’t get better visibility than getting out in front of celebrity investors and a TV audience of millions of viewers. Many entrepreneurs who have appeared on that program – even those who did not get picked up by the Sharks – succeeded because others who were interested in their concepts saw them on the show.

At BigRio, we may not have a TV audience, but we can do the same. We have the expertise to not only weed out the companies that are not ready for the market, as the sharks on the TV show do, but also mentor and get those that we feel are readily noticed by the right people in the AI investment community.

You can read much more about how AI is redefining the industry in my new book Quantum Care: A Deep Dive into AI for Health Delivery and Research. While the book’s primary focus is on healthcare delivery, it also takes a deep dive into AI in general, with specific chapters on robotic technologies.

Rohit Mahajan is a Managing Partner with BigRio. He has particular expertise in the development and design of innovative solutions for clients in Healthcare, Financial Services, Retail, Automotive, Manufacturing, and other industry segments.

BigRio is a technology consulting firm empowering data to drive innovation and advanced AI. We specialize in cutting-edge Big Data, Machine Learning, and Custom Software strategy, analysis, architecture, and implementation solutions. If you would like to benefit from our expertise in these areas or if you have further questions on the content of this article, please do not hesitate to contact us.