As the recycling industry continues to face market and quality challenges, companies such as AMP Robotics are creating hi-tech solutions. With charges for recycling continuing to escalate ($32.50 per ton as of June 2019 vs. $5.00 per ton May 2018 at the Boulder County Recycling Center), innovation with robotic sorting is gaining interest at material recovery facilities across the globe.
AMP Robotics began in 2014 with the idea that artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics could change the economics of recycling. With traditional recycling processing, manual sorting is used to perform many tasks to separate different materials or improve quality to meet increased standards. In 2016 the largest market for post-consumer recyclables imposed a requirement for 99.5% purity, commonly known as the Green Fence standard. Many processors are struggling to meet these higher standards which impact product movement and the materials value. Robots are increasing being evaluated for meeting these new demands.
The challenge AMP’s robotic technology faced was determining how to distinguish individual objects (HDPE plastic bottles vs. PET plastic bottles, or non-plastic contamination) despite being dirty, smashed or torn. AMP Robotics developed sorting robots using advanced computer vision and machine learning. Their system trains itself by processing millions of material images. Learning from experience, it gets better and better while identifying more specific material categories.
Manual sorting at a typical recycling plant identifies productive workers as those capable of maintaining 60 picks per minute, with real time averages between 40 and 60. AMP reports reaching very high purities in difficult applications and achieving more than 80 picks per minute per robot.
The addition of robotic sorting is an important step in containing the cost of recycle processing. Automation has the potential of monitoring the material stream and allowing recycling plants to begin operating like advanced manufacturing facilities where processes and outputs are closely monitored to ensure product quality.
As a company founded on innovation, AMP Robotics is continuing to develop AI sorting robots to advance the recovery of valuable raw materials, improve how plants function and increase the revenue that can be generated from these complex recycling processes. This is important as communities demand higher diversion rates despite the challenges mixed recycling faces in the global marketplace.
In addition to developing cutting edge sorting systems, AMP Robotics promotes sustainability internally. AMP has subscribed to trash, recycling and compost at their production and research facility located in the Colorado Technology Park in Louisville.