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Apple-spotting know-how boosts plastic recycling

A UK company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to advise farmers on how many apples to expect from their annual crop is also helping plastic recycling companies to be more efficient and profitable.

Technology Research Centre (TRC) works with clients to find solutions to a market threat or a new opportunity with the one goal of providing clients with a genuine commercial advantage. In the US, computers mounted on tractors scan orchards to calculate the number of apples or similar fruit per tree.

TRC’s technical expertise is being applied to two British companies that have won Government funding to find innovative solutions to plastic waste.

In a partnership with Luxus, the aim is to use AI and machine learning to predict the most efficient uses for the various plastic scrap consignments received at Luxus’ Lincolnshire facility. If the year-long pilot is successful, it will result in a far more efficient process for this part of their production.

TRC is also working with RPC Containers, part of the international Berry Global group, on the separation of the different materials in hard-to-recycle multi-layered packaging such as crisp packets. A pilot is underway which is expected to lead to the processing of 15 000 tonnes a year by 2020.

Andy Watts, TRC’s commercial development manager, says their new method is not a version of existing pyrolysis technology. ‘Material comes in as a co-laminated material and comes out as the same materials, just not laminated anymore. The materials are in the same form – just not stuck to each other.’

Executive director Andrew Miles insists, ‘Everything we do is undertaken when someone tells us they want to be more efficient and to make more profit. That’s a key differentiator’.

Read more on this in the next issue of Recycling International.

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