ISRI member AMP Robotics Corp. has extended its partnership with Evergreen, which manufactures food-grade recycled PET plastic (rPET). Evergreen operates plants in Clyde, Ohio; Riverside, Calif.; Albany, N.Y.; and Amherst, Nova Scotia. The company has 15 of AMP’s robotic sorting systems guided by artificial intelligence (AI) installed or planned across three facilities. In addition to six robots in Clyde, Evergreen has added six in Riverside, and will add three soon in Albany.

AMP’s technology finds and sorts green and clear PET from post-consumer bales of plastic soft-drink bottles at speeds up to three times faster and at a higher accuracy than manual sorters can achieve. Evergreen then recycles the material into reusable flakes or pellets, which it sells to end markets as feedstock for new containers and packaging.

“Evergreen is a leader in the transformation of recycling processes, and its application of AI-guided sortation is increasing plastic recycling rates and helping to close the loop on PET,” says Matanya Horowitz, AMP founder and CEO. “Evergreen’s repeat orders of our systems is a testament to the operational benefits of our AI and automation solutions, and we’re proud to play a role in the company’s expansion and modernization efforts.”

With AMP’s robots, Evergreen has seen a notable improvement in purity along with pick rates of up to 120 bottles per minute—an increase of up to 200%. The robots are removing up to 90% of contamination, on average, across different lines at Evergreen’s Clyde facility.

Thanks to its expansion and infrastructure investments, Evergreen’s annual capacity of rPET has swelled from 40 million pounds one year ago to more than 147 million pounds. Evergreen has also increased the number of post-consumer PET bottles it collects and recycles, from two billion PET bottles annually to 11.6 billion bottles.

“The precision and accuracy of AI-enabled robotics has allowed us to better monitor material composition throughout our operation, increase capture, and ensure high quality in the rPET resin we produce,” says Greg Johnson, Evergreen general manager. “We want to recover all we can, and with AMP’s technology, we are—thereby helping to supply a higher-quality end product and a larger volume of recycled plastic for brands to source for their recycled content goals and sustainability commitments.”

In addition to PET, AMP’s AI platform finds and captures plastics including high-density polyethylene (HDPE), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), polypropylene (PP), and polystyrene (PS), sorted further by color, clarity, and opacity, along with different form factors—lids, tubs, clamshells, cups, and more. AMP’s technology also recovers cardboard, paper, cans, cartons, and many other containers and packaging types reclaimed for raw material processing. It can quickly adapt to container packaging introduced into the recycling stream with recognition capabilities to the brand level.

Jon Gertsmeier, AMP’s national sales director, says the company has projects in the works to increase the accuracy of its sorting equipment. “In the future, you’ll see [recycling] that’s more organized around data. We’re developing standalone vision systems that can understand not only what’s coming in and out [of a facility], but how it’s being processed in the middle, with data sets allowing that to be much more precise,” he says. “We’re continuing to develop different types of technology for removing different materials from streams.”

Gertsmeier will be one of the featured speakers at ISRI2022. The session, MRF Innovations and Collaborative Financing Models to Strengthen Recycling Infrastructure, will be from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. PST on Wednesday, March 23 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

Photos courtesy of AMP Robotics. Featured image caption: During the development process, a team from Evergreen traveled to AMP’s facility to conduct preliminary testing, including running an actual material stream from Evergreen through AMP’s system with results that led to pre-installation adjustments. Body image caption: AMP installed six custom-built AMP Cortex™ units at Evergreen in November 2020—five in the final sorting area and the sixth on a residue line as a last-chance opportunity to pick bottles for recycling.

 

Dan Hockensmith

Dan Hockensmith

I'm a native Ohioan who since 2014 has called Maryland home. My background includes print, broadcast, and digital journalism; government contracting; marketing communications; and nonprofit advocacy.