Artificial Intelligence offers additional opportunity to sort cartons positively

Artificial Intelligence offers additional opportunity to sort cartons positively

CCC’s Managing Director stands next to the SamurAI sorting robot unit, which is assigned to pick cartons and HDPE containers, at the Sani-Eco MRF in Granby, Quebec

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to visit the Sani-Eco Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in Granby, Quebec, to see Machinex’s SamurAI sorting robot in action. The first of its kind to be installed in a Canadian facility, it is programmed to pick HDPE and cartons.

Robots are touted as one of the most promising evolutions in sorting technologies. Their high sorting efficiency, as well as their ability to “learn” as they work, are pointed to as key strengths. They also help alleviate some of the significant labour shortage pressures that several MRFs across the country are facing.

When asked why cartons were chosen as one of the two commodities to be sorted by the robot, Julie Gagné, Director of Operations, explains that cartons have a relatively uniform shape across the category and that their volume makes them a good candidate for sorting.

Cartons sorted by the SamurAI robot unit

As we celebrate the accomplishments of technology and the efficiencies that come with them, it is also important to note that what matters most is the positive sorting of cartons, and less so how the sorting is done. Indeed, Carton Council has long advocated for a “positive sort” when it comes to cartons. As Jason Pelz, Vice President of Recycling Projects for Carton Council North America explains, “by being sorted and baled as a separate commodity grade at MRFs, both communities and facilities can maximize the highest value for cartons in end markets, while contributing to the steady market demand for cartons.” Whether done manually, via optical sorter, or through a robot, what is important from our perspective is to increase the volume of cartons recycled and maximize their value.

In the aftermath of China’s recent drastic restrictions on plastic and paper waste imports, the fate of recycling in various countries around the world has been in question. Now, however, is the time to redouble our commitment to producing high quality material, helping ensure our recycled product is appealing to the end-markets.

At Carton Council, we are proud to help facilitate positive, productive and solution-based discussions – and look for collaborative, homegrown solutions to innovative partnerships. This includes playing a matchmaker role between municipalities and other waste management operators looking to move their carton loads with potential buyers. Simply reach out to explore how we can be of help!

We need more “big picture” thinking

We need more “big picture” thinking

Last fall I reflected on two reports I found exciting and provocative. They both look to the future and the potential effects of resource consumption on business and consumers. In fact, on the world.

In October 2018, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) previewed a report at the World Circular Economy Forum in Japan. It projects global consumption of raw materials to nearly double in the next 40 years, with the largest increases being in minerals and metals. Global Material Resources Outlook to 2060: Economic drivers and environmental consequences also predicts recycling will become more competitive compared to the extraction of primary materials, stating that “extraction and use of primary (raw) materials is much more polluting than secondary (recycled) materials.”

The report is likely to be required reading for leaders of government, industry and advocacy organisations world-wide who are seeking to bring circular economies into being.

Industry also cares

This anticipated strain on Earth’s natural resources and the impacts of resource scarcity on businesses are also among the themes of Tetra Pak’s 2016 report: Embracing Value From Natural Capital. The report follows earlier research in 2015 that promoted the development of a resource consumption model using natural resources that can be regrown or refurbished over time—from responsibly managed sources.

Tetra Pak pursued this dialogue through “Learning Labs”, events and activities with consumers and stakeholders across the consumer-packaged goods supply chain, to explore their understanding of the issue. This included identifying perceived challenges and barriers to adoption, and awareness of potential rewards from using renewable materials to mitigate natural resource scarcity, as well as contributing to long-term growth strategies.

The Learning Labs revealed that four key factors impact increased adoption of renewable materials among industry: communication, complexity, cost and consumer demand. The report offers a range of ideas and approaches suggested by industry leaders and consumers to address these factors and the potential impact of failing to act. You can learn more from the article in FOOD Navigator published in Sept. 2016.

As the OECD and industry look to the future it is encouraging to see this “big picture” thinking taking place. My hope is that we also consider how we can contribute to ensuring that picture is bright.

Are you a recycling champion?

Are you a recycling champion?

It’s official. I am a bona fide recycling champion! I know because I rocked the quiz.

Recycling is a serious business and the heart of this quiz is also serious: to help consumers challenge what they think they know about what belongs in the recycling bin and what should get tossed in the trash—and why it matters.

Improving the quality of the blue box is an ongoing challenge as programs adjust to changing market conditions.  And reducing contamination is a goal we can all get behind. The quiz is a fun way to engage with consumers and to help them become more knowledgeable.

Share the link!

I encourage you to share the link to the quiz with your stakeholders. Municipalities in particular may find this is a novel link for the front page of their municipal websites. And engaging with residents in a positive way has many benefits. Send this blog—or a link to the quiz—  to your communications, public relations or marketing team to see if it would be suitable for your website. And do let us know if you do!

Recycling Cartons: Myths vs Facts

Recycling Cartons: Myths vs Facts

We heard you loud and clear. You’re recycling your food and beverage cartons but your friends and neighbors are not. We’re here to help! Use the cheat sheet below to bust myths and convert them into recycling heroes.

  • Fact: Cartons are mainly made from paper. What someone may think of as “wax” on a carton is actually a thin layer of plastic.
  • Fact: Cartons can be recycled into new products such as paper towels, tissues and printing and writing paper. Also, the aluminum and plastic can be used to generate energy or become binding. In other cases, the entire carton can be recycled into building materials, like wallboard and roof cover board.
  • Fact: Not crushing your cartons helps the MRF operators sort cartons efficiently. The equipment confuses flat cartons with paper causing cartons to be sorted wrong.
  • Fact: Plastic bags can jam up equipment at recycling centers, slowing everything down and preventing recyclables from getting recycled. Instead, place materials in a recycling bin.
  • Fact: What can and can’t be recycled varies by community and depends on the recycling facility where the materials go. Cartons are widely accepted for recycling across Canada. For more information, visit the Carton Council’s web site.

SARCAN Recycling Launches New School Recycling Initiatives

This fall, students across Saskatchewan are being encouraged to recycle their beverage containers, especially juice and milk cartons, at their schools and in their communities. SARCAN School, a new website that launched today,, gives schools the ability to track the quantity of beverage containers they recycle, so they can set fundraising goals and learn about the environmental impact of recycling. The website also gives users the option to order recycling bins to collect refundable drink containers with ease.

As part of Waste Reduction Week in Canada, a recycling relay at Westmount School in Saskatoon launched @SARCAN Recycling’s new website ( encouraging Saskatchewan students to recycle their beverage containers, especially juice and milk cartons. The Carton Council of Canada sponsored the launch and a recycling contest featured on the website.

“Saskatchewan residents are amongst the best at recycling in North America, yet we don’t have strong return rates for cartons. Aluminum, plastic and glass have remarkable return rates; however, cartons are not being recycled as often. We want to make cartons as popular to recycle as the other drink containers,” said Amy McNeil, SARC/SARCAN Executive Director.

The launch event was held at Westmount School in Saskatoon, and was part of a kick-off to National Waste Reduction Week. In attendance was Mr. Fred Bradshaw, MLA for Carrot River Valley, as well as staff members of the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council and SARCAN.

To encourage recycling throughout the school year, the new SARCAN School website features a recycling contest, The Great Carton Search, sponsored by the Carton Council of Canada.

“We are proud to be part of these great initiatives. The SARCAN School website and the Great Carton Search Contest will contribute to increasing the number of cartons recycled in Saskatchewan, giving them a second life as paper, tissues, and construction materials. Young people are a powerful catalyst for change in our communities and it’s exciting to support and encourage them,” said Isabelle Faucher, Managing Director of the Carton Council of Canada.

Prizes will be awarded to students whose recycling efforts had the most creativity and impact. There are three available cash prizes of $1,000 for elementary schools, and two cash prizes of $1,000 for high schools. Any school in Saskatchewan is welcome to register for SARCAN School and submit an application for the contest.

SARCAN Recycling’s mandate is to provide a socially responsible and environmentally progressive recycling system that helps foster the sustainable development of communities across Saskatchewan. SARCAN’s parent organization is SARC, the provincial association that provides consultation, training, services and leadership to community-based organizations.


For more information, please contact:

Sydney Smith, Communications
Phone: (306) 933-0616, ext. 236

Isabelle Faucher
Managing Director, Carton Council of Canada
Cel: (647) 967 5881