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      Momentum builds for improving America’s packaging recycling infrastructure.

      AMP Robotics was recently honored as a finalist in Fast Company’s 2021 World-Changing Ideas Awards. The company’s groundbreaking innovation is an artificial intelligence (AI) platform— a robot— designed to more efficiently sort plastic packaging at materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and other recycling facilities by running secondary sortation, a process that applies advanced automation enabled by AI to economically sort through low volumes of residue or mixed plastics to recover polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS). The company says its secondary facilities can drive down the cost of recovery while separating contaminants and creating high-quality bales of recycled material for resale. 

      Innovation is Key to Improving Recycling Infrastructure 

      New business models and improved traditional and advanced recycling technologies are key to helping us achieve our objectives. America’s plastic makers have set a goal for all plastic packaging to be reused, recycled or recovered in the United States by 2040. To help achieve that goal, we’ve begun testing secondary sortation programs as a piece of the solution. In 2019, responding to the urgent need to improve recycling rates across the U.S., the American Chemistry Council (ACC) partnered with the Plastics Industry Association, Americas Styrenics, Berry Global, Carton Council, LyondellBasell, and Metro to install a portable secondary sorting system at the Far West Recycling materials recovery facility (MRF) in Oregon. The Pacific Northwest Waste (PNW) Sort, made use of a portable Secondary Material Recovery Facility (Secondary MRF) that operated for 60 days in Portland, receiving, sorting and measuring the possible recovery from two types of material streams from four MRFs located in Oregon and Washington. Titus MRF Services operated the facility and provided the equipment for the project. 

      The results, reported last year showed: 

      • Increase material recovery or landfill diversion by more than 50,000 tons (100 million pounds) per year, equivalent to 2,500 semi-trailer truckloads of recovered materials bound for recycling facilities. 
      • Increase the recovery rate by 3% to 6% without significant program changes or investments. 
      • Reduce the generation of greenhouse gases by more than 130,000 tons per year; this is equivalent to taking more than 27,600 cars off of the road. 
      • Enable future expansion of the accepted materials list without needing to retrofit Primary MRFs 
      • Provide accountability for all collected recyclable materials and eliminate the risk of potential mismanagement and pollution. 

      Maintaining Momentum Is Critical 

      Amp AI’s recognition by FastCompany demonstrates that Amp has brought to market the right innovation at the right time. We know that value can be extracted from landfill-bound and mixed materials. Additionally, disruption of recycling markets caused by China’s Sword is creating new opportunities in the U.S. In fact, our Roadmap charts a course toward a more circular economy for plastic, one that will help reduce waste, minimize landfilling and retain the benefits of plastics to society. 

      A More Circular Economy for Plastics 

      Plastics makers and other companies are currently tracking $5.2 billion in announced investments in U.S. plastics recycling infrastructure over the last three years, and as a result, we’re starting to see growth in domestic processing. Of course, more is needed, and our industry is working hard to continue this trend through investments, new technologies, and ongoing commitments to use more recycled content. Activities like those at Amp AI and others which increase recycling rates, create new value streams for materials and grow end markets are a step in the right direction. When we do that, the important societal benefits of plastics can shine while helping ensure plastics stay out of the environment. 

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