Sarasota recycling facility unveils Florida’s first recycling robot

Sarasota facility unveils Florida's first recycling robot

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - There’s been another big advancement in technology - this time for the world of recycling. A facility on the Suncoast has just unveiled the first recycling robot in all of Florida.

Single Stream Recyclers is a 100,000 square foot facility that separates, bales and ships the materials you recycle. Sounds simple, but there is a lot that goes into this and the biggest threat to the facility’s flow is contamination.

“So people throwing out the wrong items in here," said John Hansen, co-owner of Single Stream Recyclers. "I mean, we’ve had alligators, we’ve had deer, we get hypodermic needles, we get dirty diapers, both adult and children.”

Or even worse, people recycling things like lithium ion batteries that could - and have - started fires when they sneak through the first machine.

The recycling stream starts at the two pre-sort lines where staff pick out any material that should not be going through the machines. Then disc-shaped machines shoot any cardboard to the next belt, separating it from the containers, paper and glass, which are pushed to the next belts.

“The two-dimensional items go over the top and the three-dimensional items come back to the bottom," showed Hansen. "And then we go to optical scanning and robots.”

That’s where Florida history is being made. Single Stream Recyclers has the state’s first artificial intelligence-powered recycling robotic system. Each of the six robots there have the ability to identify, grab and sort items like plastics or food and beverage cartons in the recycling stream.

“There’s really three components to it," said Brent Hildebrand, managing director of sales for AMP Robotics. "You have a vision system, which is just like our eyes, seeing everything on the belt and sending that information to our neuron system which is the brain.”

Then using spider like arms, the robot picks up the material it’s programmed to sort and does it quickly.

Each robot moves at 80 picks per minute versus the average human’s 30-40 picks.

But we do have something in common - like humans, the robots also have the ability to get smarter and more precise every day.

Single Stream Recyclers has the most use of robotics of any recycling facility in the nation and they plan to implement even more in the near future.

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