Today’s Solutions: October 19, 2021

Since humans aren’t the best at sorting out all the different types of waste we produce, recycling centers around the country are adopting robots that use artificial intelligence to do the sorting job better.

In Florida, for example, a sprawling recycling factory has 14 different robots that can easily distinguish bottles, cans, boxes, and many other recyclables from one another, sorting out the different materials and placing them in different areas. The robots come from AMP Robotics, a Colorado-based company that believes it can help solve the recycling crisis in America that begun two years ago after China banned imports of low-value recycling—a ban that made sense since some shipments were so poorly sorted or contaminated with the garbage that they were nearly worthless. 

AMP’s robots can sort 80 items per minute, roughly twice as much as a human picker average, and can do the work more accurately. The software that runs the robots uses machine learning to recognize each object, getting smarter the more it does the task.

For those who find it worrying that robots are taking this formally human job, take a moment to consider this: it’s a job that has high turnover, particularly because it’s not a job humans want to do. Plus, if these robots can help us be better at recycling, then we should definitely not shy away from putting robots to work.

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