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Sequoia-backed recycling robot maker AMP Robotics gets its largest purchase order

Jonathan Shieber
·2-min read
Photo courtesy of Flickr/<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/serdal/6405177865/in/photolist-aL1de8-6XKAcF-27yGa-7NKQCq-3aTdj-fmvJgZ-8XWrNW-2ncNjE-KnLDm-7E83Te-7FMHbU-3oaNVN-7PnrSu-5dj5ra-5MGfxZ-bm5TR5-dsDjDo-bm5TRu-4QmpW7-4sSjX7-6WW4zL-rJXUmE-4UrBco-2VwiVR-7qeFHA-gcoWNU-7M9tkx-6WS3xB-6jmir2-5moqgm-4zhem5-7NVrr6-aw8W8r-2jhJfr-7NVrpK-5j4EwR-5fzx1S-pSmEy7-bkCWVi-6WnubX-av4H9x-5j4Ex6-5QQuAV-7NVrsK-dVYaLM-6AnALU-afGxfJ-6estiv-3CP8C-uhBiN" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Abulla Al Muhairi" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Abulla Al Muhairi</a>
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Abulla Al Muhairi

AMP Robotics, the manufacturer of robotic recycling systems, has received its largest purchase order from the publicly traded North American waste handling company Waste Connections.

The order, for 24 machine learning-enabled robotic recycling systems, will be used on container, fiber and residue lines across numerous materials recovery facilities, the company said.

The AMP technology can be used to recover plastics, cardboard, paper, cans, cartons and many other containers and packaging types reclaimed for raw material processing.

The tech can tell the difference between high-density polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate, low-density polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene. The robots can also sort for color, clarity, opacity and shapes like lids, tubs, clamshells and cups -- the robots can even identify the brands on packaging.

So far, AMP's robots have been deployed in North America, Asia and Europe, with recent installations in Spain and across the U.S. in California, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

In January, before the pandemic began, AMP Robotics worked with its investor, Sidewalk Labs on a pilot program that provided residents of a single apartment building representing 250 units in Toronto with detailed information about their recycling habits.

Working with the building and a waste hauler, Sidewalk Labs transported the waste to a Canada Fibers material recovery facility where trash is sorted by both Canada Fibers employees and AMP Robotics. Once the waste is categorized, sorted and recorded, Sidewalk communicates with residents of the building about how they’re doing in their recycling efforts.

Sidewalk says that the tips were communicated through email, an online portal and signage throughout the building every two weeks over a three-month period.

For residents, it was an opportunity to have a better handle on what they can and can’t recycle and Sidewalk Labs is betting the information will help residents improve their habits. And for folks who don’t want their trash to be monitored and sorted, they could opt out of the program.

Recyclers like Waste Connections should welcome the commercialization of robots tackling industry problems. Their once-stable business has been turned on its head by trade wars and low unemployment. About two years ago, China decided it would no longer serve as the world’s garbage dump and put strict standards in place for the kinds of raw materials it would be willing to receive from other countries. The result has been higher costs at recycling facilities, which actually are now required to sort their garbage more effectively.

At the same time, low unemployment rates are putting the squeeze on labor availability at facilities where humans are basically required to hand-sort garbage into recyclable materials and trash.

AMP Robotics is backed by Sequoia Capital, BV, Closed Loop Partners, Congruent Ventures and Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, a spin-out from Alphabet that invests in technologies and new infrastructure projects.