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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!