Robots Are Sorting Plastic Waste Better Than Humans

This article first appeared on the BNEF mobile app and the Bloomberg Terminal.

  • Robots make 2,000 picks an hour, humans make 800
  • Automation lowers labor, HR and issuance costs

Robots are performing complex quality control tasks at waste management facilities that are usually done by humans. The technology is operated by machine learning algorithms.

In addition to being faster than humans, robots can make distinctions that other automated technologies cannot. For example, they can distinguish between lower-value PET trays and higher-value PET bottles. The high upfront cost of a robot is offset over its lifetime through lower labor, HR and insurance costs, as well as higher revenues from increased capture rates.

Startups are developing the software and partnering with legacy recycling equipment manufacturers to develop their products, which use commercial robots like those from ABB Ltd. Automated robots are designed for waste managers in Europe and North America, such as Veolia Environnement, Suez and Waste Management Inc., where labor costs are high and few people are willing to sort the waste.

The industry expects robots to become standard hardware in the next few years as orders continue to grow.

Clients can find the full report ”1H 2020 Advanced Materials Market Outlook” on The Terminal or on web

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