Robots and AI are helping the US recycling industry sort trash more quickly and safely, while also gathering valuable data about what's being thrown away. This technology could help solve recycling's problems, including the rise in hard-to-recycle plastic waste and consumer mistakes that lead to contaminated recycling streams.
The new generation of trash-sorting robots has articulated arms and smarter vision systems and is starting to work alongside humans at recycling centers. While expensive, sometimes costing $300,000 each, the robots are coming down in size to the same footprint as a human worker. AI-driven optical technology provides real-time data about waste stream contaminants and other metrics. The data can be used to steer manufacturers toward more recycling-friendly product designs.
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