How Technology is Transforming Waste Recycling

How Technology is Transforming Waste Recycling

Tech is having an impact on everything – from the way that we shop to how businesses all over the world are run. This is seen right down the supply chain – even in what we do with our waste. Technology is having a big impact on recycling – making it easier and more efficient than ever for people to recycle their waste. Here are some examples of tech innovations that are creating new possibilities in the waste recycling niche. 

Single Stream Recycling 

As Fluent Conveyors explains, if you look at it on the surface, single-stream recycling looks very straightforward. It doesn’t look like it is dependent on technological advances, but don’t be deceived –  it would not be able to exist without technology. Single stream recycling has transformed the way that people all across the world dispose of their waste – it has made it easier than ever for people to recycle, because they do not need to sort their waste into paper, plastics and glass. Single stream recycling would not be possible without innovations in the sorting department the mechanize the sorting process. 

Technological Equipment Currently Used in Waste Recycling 

There is a wealth of technology that is used throughout the waste recycling process:

  • A back scraping drum is an interesting piece of technology – it automatically spreads materials out on a conveyer belt, so they can be examined by people and more effectively sorted.
  • An OCC screen sorts cardboard specifically before it is baled by a single ram baler.
  • A fines screen is for all material except for cardboard – this sorts broken glass and similar sized materials (less than a couple of inches long)
  • A news screen specifically sorts newspaper
  • An elliptical separator is an interesting piece of technology that sorts 2D objects from 3D objects
  • An optical sorter reads plastic materials, scanning for PET plastic 
  • An eddy current separator is a specifically modified magnet that pushes out aluminum, allowing it to be stored separately
  • A glass clean-up system pulls off different fractions of glass, cleaning the fines screens 
  • A motion floor is a floor bunker that stores cardboard and paper


It is in the area of robotics where the real change is being observed. Robots are being fitted with machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms to speed up the process of sorting. It might surprise some readers, but a lot of the contaminants that are put into the recycling bins are simply removed at the recycling facility manually; workers spend a lot of time and effort identifying things that aren’t supposed to be there. As a solution to this manual, inefficient work, robots are increasingly used for the sorting process. The growth of robots in this context has grown exponentially in recent years. 

This is exciting, as the use of robotics promises less downtime, fewer quality control issues, fewer workplace injuries, and higher efficiency rates – allowing the recycling business to become more profitable and, therefore, more widespread! The potential for robotics is huge, especially when AI-enabled robots not only sort recycling streams but gather useful data about the materials, increasing their value!

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