Evergreen, an Ohio-based producer of food-grade recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET), has announced that it will be installing artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled bottle sorters at its Albany, New York plastics recycling and rPET manufacturing facility.
When the installation is completed in mid-2022, Evergreen says it will have deployed 15 “high-speed, highly accurate robotic lines at its three of its United States locations.”
Colorado-based Amp Robotics Corp. will supply the robotic sorting lines to be used in Albany. Amp also installed AI-enabled robotic sorting lines at the Evergreen facility in Clyde, Ohio, in April 2021 and supplied sorters to the Evergreen Riverside plant in California last August.
“With demand for recycled PET (rPET) at the highest levels in history, we simply can’t rely on outdated ways of doing business,” states Evergreen President and CEO Omar Abuaita. “Evergreen is playing for keeps. Automating our sorting lines allows us to support ever-larger PET recycling streams, provide the millions of pounds of food-grade rPET our customers have committed to purchasing and achieve a safer, more efficient work environment for our team.”
Abuaita says replacing previous manual sorting processes with high-tech robotics is part of the company’s strategic vision to transform not just the company, but the overall plastics recycling industry.
“Evergreen is a leader in the transformation of recycling processes, and its application of AI-guided sortation is increasing plastic recycling rates and helping to close the loop on PET,” says Matanya Horowitz, founder and CEO of Amp Robotics. “Evergreen’s repeat orders of our systems is a testament to the operational benefits of our AI and automation solutions, and we’re proud to play a role in the company’s expansion and modernization efforts.”
Last month Abuaita revealed that Evergreen, a portfolio company of Houston-based private equity firm the Sterling Group, has invested more than $200 million in modernization, capacity expansion and acquisitions over the last 12 months. The Amp Robotics units are part of that investment.
Evergreen says it now recycles more than 11.6 billion postconsumer PET bottles a year, up from 2 billion in 2021. General Manager Greg Johnson, who is speaking at the Plastics Recycling Conference in Maryland this week, says the AI-enabled sorting lines are an absolute necessity to increase both the speed and accuracy of sorting the growing volume of PET bottles Evergreen processes.
“With the use of AI-powered robotics, we can identify and pick more contaminants from the stream, leaving high-quality clear and green PET bottles to be recycled,” says Johnson. “The consistency and reliability of the robots has revolutionized our process. Our goal is to capture all bottles we can use in our food-grade rPET pellets.”
Evergreen’s annual capacity of food-grade rPET is 73,500 tons, up from 20,000 tons just one year ago. When the company’s expansion at Evergreen Clyde is completed in mid-2022, its annual rPET capacity will swell to 108,500 tons, according to the firm.
Established in 1998, Evergreen operates its original plant in Ohio, plus three it has subsequently acquired in Albany, Riverside and in Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada.