Recycleye start-up supported by EIT RawMaterials secures a GBP 0.5 million project to reinvent recycling facilities with 21st-century technology 

Each year, the world still throws away USD 2 trillion worth of material – most of which is sent to landfill, exported abroad, or even worse ends up in the ocean. Instead of looking away, Recycleye is training the world’s most powerful machines to see it more clearly. The team of technologists and creatives spun-out from Imperial College London created an affordable device (Recycleye VISION) that can identify every item in entire waste streams by material, object and brand.

The human eye only sees visible light – but the power of our brains makes it the world’s best sensor. Unlike a machine we do not need to read a barcode or RFID to know the brand of an item, nor do we need laser spectroscopy or x-ray vision to know the material of an item. At Recycleye we are developing an AI that replicates this unique human ability.

Peter Hedley, Chief Technology Officer at Recycleye, explains how AI is disrupting the industry

Accelerating the transition towards a circular economy

Digitised materials recovery facility is a game-changer for an industry that currently lacks accountability and traceability. If two parties were to trade oil, both would know what they are buying/selling. If two parties were to trade a ton of recycled material, is it 50% pure? 70% pure? Perhaps the selling party will spray water on top of it given it is being traded on a weight basis. This is a huge problem, adding significant risk, inefficiencies and friction in the industry – often reducing the economic case to recycle.

Recycleye start-up is supported by the EIT RawMaterials Accelerator, a pan-European programme that provides tailored coaching and tools to scale-up. Furthermore, the digitised materials recovery facility by Recycleye is also supported by Microsoft, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, London and Partners and an impressive Board of Advisors.

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With the new funding from Innovate UK, Recycleye is building the waste facility of the future by bringing intelligence at the heart of the recycling process. There is currently a bottleneck at processing plants – an infinite category of waste blended is combined with changing waste compositions due to COVID-19, China’s national sword program that banned the export of waste (the UK used to export c.50% of its paper and plastic to the country) alongside the industry’s reliance on manual labour.

Our motto is that waste doesn’t exist, it’s just materials in the wrong place. This project will accelerate the world’s transition to a circular economy and enable the merger of removal chains back into supply chains.

Victor Dewulf, Chief Executive Officer at Recycleye