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.

Reflecting on Waste Reduction Week

Reflecting on Waste Reduction Week

This week across Canada individuals, organizations and businesses will consider how and what they contribute to their nations’ waste reduction efforts.

The scope of Waste Reduction Week includes a very broad range of local and regional events, awareness campaigns, and education programs covering an exhaustive list of audiences — from school children to CEOs.

It’s hard to know how many individuals will be reached through these initiatives or how many of those will actually step-up and make a change that will make a difference.

I’m an optimist

My experience within the waste management sector over the last twelve years has shown me that people genuinely care about the environment; the waste they create at work and at home; and the steps they can take to reduce their environmental footprint. Thousands of Canadians whose jobs are linked to the sector can testify to the effectiveness of recycling messages and changes in public attitudes towards waste as recycling programs, facilities and opportunities have grown.

At an industry level, it’s encouraging to see manufacturers focused on reducing energy and other resources in their processes while also innovating ways to transform their waste into feedstock for other kinds of enterprise. And sectors like packaging are supporting innovation to extend the useful life of their products after their original purpose has been fulfilled.

We’re taking part

The Carton Council of Canada salutes all of the innovators, participants and sponsors engaged in Canada’s Waste Reduction Week 2018. And we’re also proud to partner with SARCAN Recycling in Saskatchewan to sponsor a waste reduction week event at an elementary school in Saskatoon. The event will launch a new website focused on increasing recycling rates of all beverage containers in schools, with a special focus on cartons. SARCAN Recycling provides environmental protection, employment creation and economic development through a province-wide network for recycling beverage containers, paint and electronics in Saskatchewan.

We look forward to participating in this worthwhile event and seeing the results of these investments in the future.

Teach them well…

Teach them well…

There are few social movements that omit children from their list of important audiences. Just ask any parent who has been coached by their child to quit smoking, put their cell phones away at dinner or recycle their empty containers.

Social marketers understand that children are strong influencers in families. They areeager to learn and willing to adopt new ideas and new practices that are consistent with the values they learn at home. As a society we often leverage their enthusiasm to gently shift prevailing social attitudes. The non-smoking movement is a case in point.

Supporting environmental education that’s fun

This summer the Carton Council of Canada (CCC) partnered with the City of Vaughan in Ontario and Quebec-based Reseau Environnement’s Tri-logique program to deliver environmental education programs focused on teaching good recycling practices to children.

The Tri-logique program engaged 36 municipalities with a combined population of 400,000 between May 7 and August 10, an increase of 125% over last year. Under the theme “Sorting, makes sense!”, five outreach officers delivered 59 presentations throughout Quebec, in schools, day camps and at public events.

In Vaughan three libraries hosted a waste diversion basketball activity that attracted 372 participants at 10 events this summer. Response to the game was very positive with one youngster observing: “Now I know what goes where and I can do it at home.” One parent took a picture of the game because he was thinking he’d like to make one for his home.

The CCC provided both programs with support, including promotional banners, as well as stickers and tattoos for participants, adding to the fun and education.

Investing in young Canadians offers the promise that, as they grow and become more fully engaged in our society, they will associate the good practices they adopted as youngsters with positive experiences. And recycling should be one of them.