Robotic sorting receives multi-million investment

Posted by aclimaadmin | 03/04/2024 | Noticias del Sector

Amazon is backing San Francisco-based tech start-up Glacier to advance smart sorting.

Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund is one of the main supporters in Glacier’s US$ 7.7 million (EUR 8.3 million) investment round. It brings total investments to US$ 13 million since the company’s launch in 2019.

Hefty price tag

Glacier is developing an ‘affordable’ artificial intelligence (AI) robotic sorting system that manages 45 picks per minute. It can recognise more than 30 different types of material, including black plastic, thermoform, PET, HDPE, aluminium scrap and aseptic containers. The system is said to be 60% less expensive than similar models on the market, with a return on investment of just one year.

Co-founder Rebecca Hu observes that existing sorting robots are far too expensive, considering the average eight-to-ten year payback period.

‘At current performance level, most MRFs can’t justify the purchase,’ she says. ‘Our recycling AI is a powerful tool for everyone in the circular economy. It couldn’t come at a more important time.’

Hu adds that one Glacier robot can divert more than 10 million items per year from landfill.

‘Processing nearly 300 million tonnes of recycling every year is a Herculean task. It’s no wonder recycling technology is worth US$ 116 billion annually in the US alone.’ Hu laments that less than 25% of residential waste is currently being recycled in the US.

The next chapter

The outlook for advanced separation technology is promising, and is estimated to reach US$ 10 billion by 2030. As a next step, Hu says she and co-founder Areeb Malik want to develop the sorter to recognise niche waste streams such as types of plastic and metal packaging.

‘Partnering with Glacier will enable us to test the role of novel AI and robotics-based recycling technologies so that we can identify and aggregate novel packaging materials that can ultimately be recycled and repurposed,’ comments Nick Ellis, principal of the Climate Pledge Fund.

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Fuente: Recycling International

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