Skip to main content
Home » Sustainable Business » Rethinking the recycling process with innovative AI technology

Susanne Haase

Program Director, 4evergreen Alliance

The introduction of digital technologies into the recycling system of fibre based packaging has enabled innovation across the chain and improved impact on the environment.

Artificial intelligence (AI) looks set to overcome some of the current challenges and limits of the recycling and sorting systems mostly used across Europe.

It provides a greater level of accuracy at speed, allowing sorting operations to identify specific packaging materials and guarantee the purity of the material stream.

The most promising technologies already assisting in increasing ever-more effective recycling methods are machine learning, infrared sensors and optical or biomarkers – the latter of which will revolutionise the sorting of fibre-based composite packaging.

Spurring innovation in the supply chain

Technology already plays a significant role in the recycling circularity of fibre-based packaging products such as board and paper.

4evergreen, a cross-industry alliance with the specific goal of optimising fibre-based packaging and climate performance, is aiming to raise the overall recycling rate to 90% by 2030.

It is providing a crucial platform to enable innovation within the industry and has a specific work stream aimed at spurring innovation across the fibre-based packaging value chain.

Technology enables us to re-think the way we conceptualise the whole recycling process.

Susanne Haase, Program Director, says: “From design to recycling, new technologies have already been deployed by industries and start-ups to reduce the impact on the environment of the increasing amount of waste.

For example, digital technologies can track the journeys of products, components and materials through digital passports, labelling or watermarks, enabling the collection of greater volumes of packing and increasing efficiency of sorting.”

Improving recycling processes

However, while a wide range of sorting and separating technologies exist, their deployment at scale is lacking. Therefore, platforms are required that offer the opportunity for technology providers to test their innovations.

“Technology enables us to re-think the way we conceptualise the whole recycling process, improving the quality and reducing fibres lost in the recycling process,” adds Haase.

AI and process automation in the field of waste sorting offer opportunities to improve performance, building greater resource efficiency and increase the quality of fibres and the value of secondary resources.

Next article