USA – American trade association the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) has announced a new lease model to finance a robot that can sort single-stream recyclables.

Designed by artificial intelligence and robotics company EverestLabs, the robot is expected to capture a little over 1 million used beverage cans (UBCs) a year.

CMI used funding from its members Ardagh Metal Packaging and Crown Holdings (Crown) to fully finance the two-year equipment lease for Caglia, which will share with CMI 50 percent of all revenue from the UBCs captured with the leased equipment.

This lease program is the latest in a several-year CMI effort to demonstrate the potential additional revenue for the recycling system through capturing missorted UBCs and to spur the installation of additional can-capture equipment in MRFs.

“We are excited about the lease model because it highlights that aluminum beverage cans are consistently one of the most valuable recyclable commodities and further exemplifies how this recycled beverage container pays its own cost of recycling due to that high market value, said John Rost, vice president of global sustainability and regulatory affairs at Crown.

“CMI research has concluded that without the vital revenue from UBCs, most MRFs would not be able to operate without a change to their business model.

According to the CMI’s 2020 research, titled ‘Aluminium Beverage Can: Driver of the US Recycling System’, capturing missorted UBCs at MRFs is of key importance, as up to one in four aluminium beverage cans is currently missorted at MRFs.

EverestLabs founder and CEO Jagadeesh Ambati said: “With new investment models, we can speed adoption of AI solutions to eliminate losing UBCs to landfill, as this is a massive loss for the entire ecosystem.”

CMI also supported on-the-ground testing in 2022 at five loss points across three diverse MRFs.

This testing found an average loss of seven to 36 UBCs per minute, which represents an annual average revenue loss of $71,900 with a payback period of three years per the return-on-investment calculator that CMI commissioned and published online for MRFs to use.

Even at an MRF like Caglia’s at the Cedar Avenue Recycling and Transfer Station (CARTS) in Fresno, California, there is the potential to capture additional cans.

This facility, which focuses on continuous improvement and has a recently upgraded single-stream sort line, will place the leased robot on its “last chance line” to capture UBCs mistakenly sorted to material destined for landfill.

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