Peter Buck, global head of solution architecture at AMCS Group, is a paper, packaging, and recycling veteran with over 30 years in the industry working for Boise Cascade and most recently WestRock, leading information technology initiatives across various business segments and lines of business. Ahead of the Paper and Plastics Recycling Conference, Oct. 19-20 in Chicago, AMCS provided Scrap News with this interview in which Buck discusses recycling-related topics.
How did you come to AMCS?
Having successfully introduced AMCS as a solution provider for one of WestRock’s joint venture partnerships in Mexico, I stayed connected to AMCS for the following three years after implementation and collaborated with AMCS regarding their product growth needed for WestRock.
Having been widely successful at WestRock in reducing the number of applications by introducing newer, more efficient solutions and technologies, I joined AMCS a year ago to help its customers leverage AMCS solutions to reduce inefficiencies, improve integration points, and provide a high level of service as we continue to grow the AMCS solutions and partnerships with its customers and the industry.
How has the recycling industry changed over the past 25 years?
The recycling industry has seen tremendous change through expanded fiber commodity requirements in many industries. Expanding the ability to evolve machinery technologies to reduce dependence on pure raw fiber has helped grow the recycling industry. Also, the ability to improve regeneration of used fiber or “Old Corrugated Containers” to help drive higher production yields and more product offerings has been key.
The evolution of stronger fiber grades helped grow product lines in known paper and packaging commodities as well as crossing boundaries into the food industry. This has grown the paper and plastics recycling industry by raising awareness of the worldview to drive companies toward zero-material-loss initiatives. Companies that strive to be good stewards of the environment have had a major impact on the recycling industry and the paper recycling industry. Specifically, growth in fiber products to replace plastic products will drive innovation and continued evolution of the circular economy.
What have been the automation challenges specific to the paper recycling industry?
The industry has faced many challenges involving everything from collection to processing to quality dispositioning to end-user product evolution and industry specific product creation. To isolate one area would be a disservice to the whole. However, community education and trying to drive better recycling knowledge in terms of separation and acceptance will continue to be key. Reductions in landfills as well as reducing our water and ocean pollution are key drivers that will continue to challenge our world as we move toward cleaner and better recycling capabilities.
The paper industry needs better collaboration at the government levels to help drive incentives and reduce independence on non-recyclable end products. Continued R&D incentives expanding into non-paper industries such as healthcare will continue to challenge but play a pivotal role in the evolution and expansion of paper recycling products. Quality of recycled material are key as well as quality dispositioning to remove contaminants, prohibitive, and outthrows. Better quality grading mechanisms as well as automated sort capabilities using artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to place added stress on suppliers to improve automation and material valuation.
What are the main forces driving change and how does this impact automation?
Sustainability. If the countries of the world continue down the paths we are currently on, and our natural resources continue to diminish at the current rate, the Earth will no longer be able to support our growth and dependence on fossil fuels. As the manufacturing industry has evolved over the last 50 years, the quality and durability of everyday household items has declined in favor of inexpensive, single-use products. Globally, abundant production leads to abundant excess materials, and as materials pile up, we are forced to address this problem with new and innovative methods for reducing the environmental impact of our consumer culture.
To combat climate change, we have seen an increase in alternative fuel options and cleaner ways to provide essential needs at the household level. The paper industry can play a key role in educating other industries on how best to grow reusable, consumable products, what pitfalls to avoid, and how automation can help drive change.
The continued advancement of AI and recycling education are key components to change and adaptation that are just starting to make their way into the industry. Changing mindsets about the misconceptions of the recycling industry will continue to be challenging. But companies like WM, Republic Services, GFL Environmental, and Recology will continue to drive home the reality that it is not as simple as [materials] collections. It is their responsibility to be good stewards of the communities they serve to provide clean solutions that improve the circular economy.
How does AMCS fit into the sustainability challenge?
AMCS started out to improve the ability of haulers to automate their collection operations by inventing automated weighing capabilities for trucks. Fast forward to today: AMCS solutions cover complete enterprise-level advanced brokerage, export, order-to-cash, and procure-to-pay erp models. We also offer extensive fleet planning, route planning, and route optimization as well as AI-enhanced collection that continues to learn and disseminate quality material with each collected service stop.
At the Paper and Plastics Recycling Conference, we want to reconnect with colleagues, meet new people who are enthusiastic about recycling, and share what AMCS has to offer. Contact us to pre-book a meeting.
Photos courtesy of AMCS Group.