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Glacier raises $7.7 million to bring AI-powered robots to more recycling centres

Workers sort recyclables on a line
Glacier will allocate a significant portion of the funding towards team expansion and developing its low-cost, high-performance AI-enabled robots that streamline recyclable sorting. Adobe Stock Images

Glacier, an AI and robotics company, has raised $7.7 million in funding from NEA and Amazon's Climate Pledge Fund, with additional participation by investors including AlleyCorp, Overture VC, and VSC Ventures. 

"We are excited to continue supporting Glacier's mission of eliminating waste by automating recycling with AI and robotics," said Ann Bordetsky, a partner at NEA. "Glacier's market-leading technology not only enhances recycling efficiency but also paves the way for companies across industries to understand the efficacy of their sustainability initiatives."

Glacier will allocate a significant portion of the funding towards team expansion and developing its low-cost, high-performance AI-enabled robots that streamline recyclable sorting while gathering real-time data on recycling streams for businesses. Additionally, Glacier intends to utilize the funding to bolster its recycling capabilities, particularly in light of its recent collaboration with Amazon. This partnership is geared towards enhancing traceability and recovery processes for recyclable materials.

"Amazon is always looking at new ways to innovate on behalf of our customers, and plastic packaging is no exception," says Nick Ellis, principal of Amazon's Climate Pledge Fund. "In order to build a future where new materials can be recycled at scale, we must test options to move these materials through the recycling system. Partnering with Glacier will enable us to test the role of novel AI and robotics-based recycling technologies so that we can identify and aggregate novel packaging materials that can ultimately be recycled and repurposed." 

Nearly 80 percent of residential recyclables in the U.S. are not recycled, contributing to significant environmental pollution and resource depletion. Traditional recycling facilities need more access to the specialized machinery required for efficiently sorting a wide variety of materials. 

AI recycling robots built for recycling 

Utilizing advanced AI capabilities, Glacier can identify over 30 different materials, spanning from broad categories like plastic bottles and aluminum cans to specific items such as toothpaste tubes and cat food cans. Glacier's robots effectively sort a similarly wide array of items, including challenging materials such as grocery bags and trash bags, which are notoriously difficult to sort using traditional recycling processes.

"Waste is a significant climate issue that's not being solved quickly enough and we believe we've developed the right technology to solve it," said Areeb Malik, co-founder of Glacier. "Our breakthrough lies in designing purpose-built machinery tailored to solve the needs of the recycling industry." 

Glacier's technology is made for ease of deployability. Space limitations, installation downtime, and capital requirements often constrain recycling facilities. To address these concerns, Glacier designed a robot that occupies the same footprint as a person and can be installed with no facility downtime and no heavy machinery. One Glacier robot can pay back in less than one year. 

"Glacier's team is applying cutting-edge robotics and AI to a massive real-world problem in a uniquely resourceful way," said Abe Murray, general partner at AlleyCorp. "As an investor specializing in robotics and deep tech, I can attest that building reliable custom industrial automation in just a few years is incredibly difficult. Glacier's impressive technological expertise, relentless drive, and creative spirit have enabled them to do just that."

Amazon's investment is made possible through its Climate Pledge Fund and corporate venture capital fund, which earmarked $53 million for its Female Founder Initiative. Glacier is the second female CEO-led company to receive investment from the Climate Pledge Fund.

"The diversity of Glacier's team is an invaluable asset as they work to solve a problem as complex as the climate crisis. We look forward to supporting more companies like them through their entrepreneurial journey," said Phoebe Wang, investment partner at Amazon Climate Pledge Fund.

"We're excited by the progress we've made in the recycling industry, but to maximize Glacier's impact on recycling, it's essential that we work with stakeholders across the circular economy, including brands," said Rebecca Hu, co-founder of Glacier. "That's why we're thrilled to collaborate with a sustainability leader like Amazon."

The funding comes on the heels of a strong year for Glacier. The company was accepted into Elemental Excelerator's 12th cohort, joining 15 startups dedicated to reimagining climate solutions across various sectors. Additionally, Glacier secured a significant grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, supported by The Recycling Partnership, the Carton Council, and the Foodservice Packaging Institute, to deploy several units in the Detroit area.

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