Denver-based ISRI member AMP Robotics Corp. is developing artificial intelligence (AI)-powered automation to improve recovery of film and flexible packaging in materials recovery facilities (MRFs).
The Recycling Partnership (where ISRI President Robin Wiener is a board member) estimates only 1% of U.S. households have curbside access for recycling film and flexible packaging. Yet film and flexibles comprise the fast-growing and second-largest valued packaging segment, behind only corrugated containers and ahead of bottles and other rigid plastic packaging. The average U.S. home puts out the equivalent in weight of a sitting flush toilet each year in grocery and storage bags, pouches, and wrappers.
The recycled materials industry lacks infrastructure for the identification and separation of film and flexible packaging, and these materials can jam MRF equipment. Tiny amounts of film and flexible packaging in the overall materials entering MRFs can be unmanageable to remove manually, often damaging equipment, necessitating downtime, and hindering recovery of recycled materials. Given their light weights, most of these materials end up contaminating bales of fiber going out of the MRF.
AMP Vortex™ targets film contamination and is initially adjusted for quality control on fiber lines. Vortex can be retrofitted to existing lines to accommodate different belt sizes and inclines.
“Innovation and infrastructure improvements are vital to helping MRFs process this challenging, prolific material type and increase recycling rates for residential film and flexible packaging,” says Matanya Horowitz, founder and CEO of AMP Robotics.
Because these materials are complicated and expensive to reprocess into raw materials, end markets for film and flexible packaging have been limited. Major brands continue to make commitments to use more recycled content in their products, and several states have recently adopted laws like California’s aimed at ramping up the use of postconsumer resin in plastic products and packaging. AMP is developing Vortex to target and recover film and flexible packaging for baling and selling.
“With our latest technology innovation for more efficient, profitable recycling operations, we aim to boost recovery and drive demand for products manufactured from recycled film and flexibles to develop and support end markets,” says Amanda Marrs, senior director of product for AMP.
Vortex emerged from AMP’s Customer Innovation Program (CIP); a technology program focused on collaborating with the industry to develop new AI-enabled automation products for the recycling industry. Vortex is among a portfolio of new products and performance features AMP is developing for release in support of increased recycling efficiency and improved cost-effectiveness for MRFs and converters.
AMP is a member of The Recycling Partnership’s Film and Flexibles Recycling Coalition, part of a broad group of industry seeking to increase curbside collection of film recycling and source renewable film and flexible products. AMP has started its pre-release of Vortex to the market, actively collaborating with initial customers on deployment. The company expects to be in full production release in 2023.
Photo courtesy of Storyblocks.