We don't often think about what happens when our garbage reaches the recycling facility.
Not every material is easily recycled. In many cases the plant opts to deconstruct waste into less valuable substances, having deemed the product too costly to recirculate in its original form.
OECD figures suggest 9% of the world's plastic waste to date has been recycled, less than a tenth. Around half of discarded plastics are sent to landfills.
Automating waste management is a major frontier for emerging AI platforms. Thanks to intelligent robots and computer vision, it's becoming increasingly viable to let robots sort through materials, collecting invaluable data to improve future decision making.
London startup Recycleye's refuse sorting robots are designed to discern between plastics, aluminium and cardboard. Each robot has capacity to pick 33,000 waste items over the course of a 10-hour shift, and the platform is claimed to scan objects at 60 frames per second for an average inspection rate of 30 times for every object on the waste conveyor belt.
Recycleye recently closed on $17 million of series A funding led by the deep tech investor DCVC. DCVC was joined by fellow series A participants Promus Ventures, Playfair Capital, MMC Ventures, Creator Fund, Atypical and Seaya Andromeda.
The startup said the funding would help refine its robot's sorting judgements, improving accuracy when screening unusual waste items, for which training data might be in short supply.
In 2021, Recycleye raised $5 million in a round involving Promus Ventures, Orbital Ventures, Playfair Capital, MMC Ventures, Atypical Ventures and Creator Fund.
The team has grown to employ 33 people, and its product has been introduced to clients in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia, the US and France.
Peter Hedley, CTO at Recycleye, said: "We believe that waste does not exist, only materials in the wrong place. Our mission is to provide intelligent sorting technology that delivers dramatic financial and environmental returns to the global management of waste.
"This new investment will help us to further fine-tune our world-leading solutions, underpinned by the solid maintenance network our clients need to generate more output value”.