2023 unwrapped: Why the waste sector embraced AI this year

Alisa Pritchard

Alisa Pritchard

Jan 9, 2024

5 min read

 

In 2023, we took a big step towards closing the global waste data gap.

2023 brought waste intelligence into the spotlight. From the world’s biggest technology conventions to government summits and waste sector conferences, AI’s evolving impact on resource recovery took centre-stage.

That growing interest came after a year of widespread adoption in global recovery facilities. Over the past twelve months, plants around the world have turned to waste intelligence to track their sorting processes and material in more detail than ever, and reduce the countless tonnes of recyclable material sent to landfills and incinerators.

 

Widespread waste sector adoption, unprecedented insight

At this year’s RWM conference, our CEO and co-founder Mikela Druckman highlighted the significance of the change that’s taken place in the waste sector:

“We measure less than 1% of the waste that we process. That information drives policy, drives operation, drives trade. We were sitting here last year talking about the waste data drought. We now have a significant amount of data, and [waste intelligence technology] is being adopted more and more.”

Mikela-Druckman-web-square-281123-2.196-retMikela Druckman, CEO and co-founder at Greyparrot

 

Innovators across the global waste sector have embraced waste intelligence in greater numbers than ever, exponentially increasing the amount of waste we’re able to analyse:

 
2023 milestones:

📈 Over 100 Greyparrot Analyzers installed

🌎 Expansion to 14 countries, and 6 states across the USA

🔍 800+ waste objects analysed every second

♻️ Thousands of tonnes of recyclable material diverted from landfills and incinerators

 

 

2023-map-of-greyparrot-units

Each Analyzer installation offered our customers new insights to benefit their sustainability efforts — and their bottom line:

“It creates a lot of opportunities. The composition of material … tells us how our optical sorters are doing, and our other processes. On outbound material, it gives us nearly-continuous quality control.”  

Conor McCooey


Conor McCooey, CIO at Re-Gen Group


 

How much value recovery facilities lose on residue lines

By tracking over 800 waste objects per second in 2023, our AI gathered a lot of data on the resources we throw away — and their journey through global recycling plants. Last year alone, we identified over 3.1 billion PET bottles and 3.3 billion aluminium cans (just two of our 67+ recognition classes) at recovery facilities around the world.

Many of those bottles, cans, and other recyclable objects were on facility residue lines.

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The residue data we gathered in 2023 revealed a major opportunity for the coming year: armed with digitised, scalable sorting and sampling, recovery facilities now have the opportunity to gather more value than ever, and send even less waste to landfill.

Find out how much value was lost on global residue lines in 2023, here.

 

The collaborations defining the recovery facility of the future

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We didn’t just help the global waste sector close a decades-long data gap, though. We also partnered with fellow innovators to start building the recovery facility of the future.

The development of Greyparrot Sync — our integration platform that connects live AI data with third-party machinery and software — has paved the way for smart systems that make truly intelligent sorting and automated sampling a reality.

Over the past twelve months, we’ve worked with robotics manufacturers, software developers and engineering experts to shape the recovery facility of the future.

“Specialisation is key, and some companies embrace being part of an ecosystem. Collaboration benefits the entire industry, and helps it grow.”

Luc MallingerLuc Mallinger, CEO at SortFlow

 

2023 milestones:

🤖 A major robotics provider now uses live Greyparrot data to get accurate picking coordinates for its sorting arms.

🏛 Greyparrot data forms the foundation of the “Auto Sampler”, a new automated sampling and compliance reporting solution being adopted in a major UK facility.

💻 SortFlow built the sector’s first live “digital facility twin” using our data and Sync integrations, providing an real-time overview of sorting performance that won us a joint National Recycling Award.

↩️ Longtime collaborators ACI use Greyparrot AI to power recognition and sorting for their new iTainer Robot, enabling accurate deposit returns and boosting recovery rates in South Korea.

ACI-iTainer

“AI will fuel dynamic facilities that can automatically respond to fluctuations in feedstock. If all the stakeholders come together and work together, we can create MRFs (Material Recovery Facilities) of the future right now.”

steve-bw_compressedSteve Almond, Head of Partnerships at Greyparrot

 

How waste data impacted the entire resource ecosystem

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In November, Greyparrot took waste management onto the world stage, presenting to world leaders at the UK government's inaugural AI Safety Summit, and to the global tech community at Web Summit.

The data we collect holds significance not only for stakeholders within the recovery facility but becomes even more impactful when those who can act on it are involved, as our CPO and co-founder Ambarish Mitra highlighted at Websummit:

“To build a more sustainable ecosystem, we are beginning to work with regulators and packaging manufacturers…what we are trying to do is apply visual intelligence to the entire ecosystem.” 

Ambarish-Mitra-web-square-281123-2.119-retAmbarish Mitra, CPO and co-founder at Greyparrot


In one such example of AI’s wider impact, 2023 also saw leading voices in waste regulation highlight the potential waste intelligence has to influence the wider waste ecosystem:

“We know that data is super important. The level of granularity that AI can provide us would really help us understand what people are discarding, and use it to support EPR fees, help us target and change behaviours.”

Claire Shrewsbury

Claire Shrewsbury, Director of Insights & Innovation at WRAP  

 

Preparing for impact in 2024

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In 2022, waste management faced a massive data gap. In 2023, we helped fill it using waste intelligence. For our team, 2024 will be the year of impact: 

“In 2024, we'll witness the perfect storm of AI, sustainability, and climate tech convergence. We'll see AI drive an evolution from mechanical sorting automation in individual recovery facilities, to smart solutions that unite the waste value chain, improve recycling efficiency and divert millions of tons of waste from landfills.”

Ambarish-Mitra-web-square-281123-2.119-retAmbarish Mitra, CPO and co-founder at Greyparrot

 

 

Want to take intelligent action in 2024? 

Find out how a single Analyzer Unit can level-up your operations this year:

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