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Artificial intelligence plays growing role in recycling

Recycling Investments
Posted at 1:48 PM, Mar 27, 2024

Recycling is a challenge in our country.

Currently, only 21-percent of what could be recycled actually gets recycled, according to recent tracking by The Recycling Partnership.

That means a lot of stuff is ending up in the landfill.

Now, more companies are turning to artificial intelligence as a possible solution to help fix this problem.

Bollegraaf, the world's biggest builder of recycling plants, and AI start-up Greyparrot recently announced they'll be using AI systems to sort recycling.

They're just the latest waste managers to add the technology.

"While it's not the silver bullet, it is a great platform for us to understand the composition of waste that so we can manage it better. You can't really manage what you can't measure," said Cody Marshall with The Recycling Partnership.

Marshall tells us AI can help to sort different types of plastics.

The technology can also identify new types of packaging and help determine if it can be recycled.

"Think about a camera that it's connected to a big brain, and it monitors material and analyzes that material as it passes through a conveyor belt, or it gets dumped to a truck to really identify specific types of material and help us understand where it should go, how it should be sorted," said Marshall.

Recycling facilities are also dealing with a worker shortage, so AI is expected to help with that too.

Marshall said it's not about replacing workers, but letting the technology do what can be hard and sometimes dangerous jobs, and then having people do the other work that's more critical to the recycling operation.