Carton Council of North America has completed a pilot programme that uses artificial intelligence to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of carton recycling.

The council, which includes Elopak, SIG Combibloc, Evergreen Packaging, Tetra Pak, and Nippon Dynawave Packaging, has also provided an undisclosed grant for the programme.

Under the programme, Carton Council, along with US-based AMP Robotics and Alpine Waste & Recycling, developed a robotic system that can identify different food and beverage cartons and separate them from the recycling stream.

Named AMP Cortex (nicknamed Clarke), the robotic system has spider-like arms with specially designed grippers to pick up and separate cartons at a materials recovery facility (MRF).

“We believe this technology has widespread implications for the recycling industry, as it can be adapted to other materials."

Featuring fine-tuning and adjustments, Clarke is capable of picking up 60 cartons in a minute.

Carton Council of North America recycling projects vice-president Jason Pelz said: “Clarke greatly expands opportunities for the carton industry as we work to increase the efficiency of carton recycling and, ultimately, divert more cartons from landfills.

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“Everything Clarke has learned about identifying cartons can be transferred to robots at other MRFs.

“We are excited to bring innovation to carton recycling and believe this technology has widespread implications for the recycling industry, as it can be adapted to other materials.”

According to AMP Robotics, Clarke systems can help manufacturers to reduce their costs and introduce new packaging.

In addition, unique gripper solutions can be developed to identify and pick contaminants.