ISRI member and pioneer in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and infrastructure for the recycling industry AMP Robotics continues to expand beyond its original lines of business. In May 2022, Louisville, Colo.-based AMP introduced two new high-diversion production facilities based on its infrastructure model for advanced secondary sortation. The company-owned facilities, in Denver, Atlanta, and Cleveland, are designed to economically process and aggregate low volumes of difficult-to-recycle mixed plastics, paper, and metals sourced from residue supplied by primary materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and other material providers.
“With the success of the pilot facility we launched [in 2021] in Denver, we’ve been working hard to bring online additional facilities powered by our application of AI for material identification and advanced automation,” says Matanya Horowitz, AMP founder and CEO. “This secondary sortation model is helping to address the millions of tons of recyclables and billions of dollars’ worth of material feedstock lost to landfill despite the demand for high-quality recycled content from consumer packaged goods companies and brand owners.”
The launch of AMP’s secondary sortation facilities comes amid the ongoing expansion of its AI-enabled robotics system business. AMP has more than 250 deployments of its AMP Cortex™ robotic-sorting systems in upwards of 80 facilities across three continents and has doubled year-over-year revenue for three consecutive years. Demand for robotics to retrofit existing recycling infrastructure continues to grow; the industry needs capacity to meet the 2025 goals of consumer packaged goods companies that have committed to the use of postconsumer recycled (PCR) content.
“This is an exciting time in the recycling industry,” says Cheryl Coleman, ISRI’s senior vice president for sustainability. “Technology advances by innovative companies like AMP Robotics are resulting in higher quantities of high-quality recyclables that can remain in the value chain and become new materials while strengthening markets for recyclable materials. This is a win-win for the everyday consumers who want to see their packaging materials recycled and consumer brand companies with sustainability commitments. It also helps ensure resources are available for current and future needs.”
In addition to secondary sortation, AMP’s AI enables AMP Clarity™, the company’s material characterization and robot performance software solution. The company is introducing new features that will improve materials sortation including mass estimation (teaching robots how much things weigh]; robot pick assignments, alerts, and status tracking; and expanded reporting capabilities to help MRFs and converters take a data-driven approach to optimizing operations, increasing recovery revenue, and reducing costs.
“Because a core competency of AMP is our AI, we have this capability and this maturity to be able to see what’s in these waste streams and then go after it to sort it,” says Amanda Marrs, AMP’s senior director of product. “Our AI platform, AMP Neuron™, continues to achieve breakthroughs in data accuracy and classification of different polymers, form factors, and other packaging types. Our neural network is built on a data engine that has recognized more than 50 billion containers and packaging types in real-word conditions.”
“These advancements in material recognition continuously improve performance for our customers and open the door to other categories of packaging that have been historically challenging to identify, such as plastic films and flexible packaging,” Marrs adds. The secondary sorting facilities are all about 60,000 square feet in size.
AMP’s secondary facilities aim to drive down the cost of recovery while creating contamination-free, high-quality bales of recycled material. AMP’s business model also introduces market certainty, lower disposal costs, and new revenue streams for established MRFs by creating a destination for residue that they would otherwise have to pay to landfill, as well as demand for mixed or impure plastic streams that may not have strong end markets.
“We have lessons on the variability that comes with feedstock,” Marrs says. “Everyone in this industry understands these material feedstocks are highly variable all the time, the learnings around how frequently the commodity markets do change, and [it] goes back to our ability to pivot to what we’re seeing in the industry.”
AMP is evaluating several sites for future secondary sorting operations. “We are always looking for relationships with recyclables collection and management companies who will accept or buy residual secondary source materials and then strategic partnerships for offtake,” Marrs adds.
Photo courtesy of AMP Robotics.