Robots become a reality in carton recycling
After the successful pilot launched earlier this year, the Carton Council of North America and AMP Robotics (amprobotics.com) announce that a second installation of the AMP Cortex robot used to sort food and beverage cartons is occurring at Dem-Con Companies, a Minnesota-based recycling, processing and disposal company.
The AMP Cortex, identifies, grabs and sorts food and beverage cartons from the recycling stream so they can be sent to recyclers and turned into new materials, such as tissues, paper towels and other paper materials, as well as sustainable building and construction materials. Once fully operational, the robot will be able to pick up 60 cartons per minute (or more), considerably more than a human’s average pickup rate of 40.
“We are constantly looking at innovative ways to maximize recycling, and the AMP Cortex is a perfect example,’’ says Bill Keegan, president of Dem-Con Companies. “We were already recycling cartons recognizing their value, however our method wasn’t as efficient as it could be. This system will assure we are sorting every carton.’’
The pilot for the AMP Cortex was launched at Alpine Waste & Recycling in Denver earlier this year. Through artificial intelligence (AI), everything learned about identifying cartons can be transferred to other systems. The robot is currently working 16 hours a day continuing to accumulate data. The success at the Alpine facility led to this second installation, as the robot continues to become better at identifying and sorting more cartons in various shapes and brands.
“AI offers great opportunities for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of carton recycling,’’ says Jason Pelz, vice president of recycling projects for the Carton Council of North America and vice president, environment, for Tetra Pak cluster Americas. “We view the growth of the AMP Cortex as a cost-effective, long-term way to continue to expand carton recycling, including making it possible for more facilities to come on board with carton recycling.’’
“While the AMP Cortex is currently sorting only food and beverage cartons, it is learning from all the materials that pass below it and getting smarter each day,” said Matanya Horowitz, founder of AMP Robotics. “In the future, it will be able to not only sort other recyclables but also be programmed to pick out contaminants, such as plastic bags, leading to a more cost-effective and safer MRF environment for the humans working on the line.”
The installation was made possible through a grant from the Carton Council as part of their ongoing efforts to improve and expand carton recycling. The Carton Council has a comprehensive strategy in place to further grow access and drive the recycling of aseptic and gable-top cartons that includes ensuring strong end markets and sorting performance, deploying school recycling programs, participating in relevant policy and legislative dialogues, and motivating consumers to recycle.