One of the biggest hindrances to achieving a reliable and consistent quality of recycled materials is the lack of an efficient and accurate technology for sorting waste plastics. According to Metaspectral, a Vancouver, Canada-based technology company, the use of ultra-high-resolution, visible-to-infrared (hyperspectral) imagery could be the key to address this problem.
The company has now been awarded over $300,000 in grant funding from the CleanBC Plastics Action Fund - an initiative that supports businesses in British Columbia that create value from used plastics by including more recycled material in product manufacturing, thus keeping plastic out of landfills. It is funded by the BC Government and administered by Alacrity Cleantech.
Metraspectral will use this funding for the development of computer vision, artificial intelligence, and robotics designed to sort consumer waste, increase efficiency in processing materials and improve the quality of post-consumer recycled plastic. The project is slated for completion by 31 December 2021.
“By using ultra-high-resolution hyperspectral imaging, our AI is able to efficiently distinguish among types of plastics for accurate and easy sorting,” said Francis Doumet, CEO of Metaspectral.
“It is impossible for humans to differentiate between different types of clear plastic bottles with the naked eye, so until now, various types of recycled clear plastics were sold together in bulk, decreasing the quality and value of the finished recycled material,” he explained. “Our technology will make it possible to differentiate between otherwise indistinguishable materials in real-time, automatically, meaning that large quantities of plastic can be sorted and recycled more efficiently and accurately.”
This technology will support the circular economy for plastics and stimulate more local processing capacity for recycling. Both federal and provincial governments have set ambitious recycling targets and have endorsed policy agreements to reduce plastic waste.
Metraspectral will also be contributing to the Government of Canada's Greening Government strategy of increasing the ratio of plastics that are recycled to 75% by 2030, up from 9% today.