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LRS installs EverestLabs robot on last-chance line at Chicago MRF

Can Manufacturers Institute funds EverestLabs sorting robot to increase used beverage can recovery and quality control

The top of an aluminum can
Capturing missorted cans at MRFs is one way to increase the U.S. aluminum beverage can recycling rate. Pixabay

EverestLabs and LRS have partnered. With funding support from Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) members Ardagh Metal Packaging and Crown Holdings, LRS installed EverestLabs' RecycleOS material sorting robot in its newly opened MRF, The Exchange, on the residual line to help increase revenue and ensure the efficient recovery and recycling of used beverage cans (UBCs). The EverestLabs robot assists in LRS maintaining quality control for over 350,000 pounds of recycled aluminum each month at The Exchange, which equates to approximately 12 million aluminum beverage cans.

The lease program is the latest in a several-year CMI effort to demonstrate the potential additional revenue for the recycling system through capturing missorted UBCs and to spur the installation of additional can-capture equipment in MRFs. The partnership with LRS follows on the heels of a collaboration between CMI, EverestLabs, and Caglia Environmental, which has captured more than 1,500 additional UBCs per day since installation at a Caglia MRF.

"With both robot lease agreements that include a revenue share, CMI is able to leverage that UBCs are consistently one of the most valuable recyclable commodities," shared Scott Breen, senior vice president of sustainability at CMI. "CMI is receiving a portion of all revenue generated from the cans collected by the robot and then using those funds for even more can-capture equipment in MRFs."

Capturing missorted cans at MRFs is one way to increase the U.S. aluminum beverage can recycling rate. CMI's 2020 research, "Aluminum Beverage Can: Driver of the U.S. Recycling System," found that up to 25 percent of all UBCs entering MRFs may be missorted and lost due to non-recovery. Alongside industry statistics showing a little less than half of aluminum beverage cans are recycled by U.S. consumers, it is evident that the aluminum recycling ecosystem needs improvement, and UBCs are not being captured and utilized to their fullest potential in the circular economy. This is why CMI has proper sortation at recycling centres as one of its four pillars of action to reach its ambitious U.S. aluminum beverage can recycling rate targets.

"The Exchange in Chicago is our second project with CMI, and we have been behind their mission to significantly increase the amount of UBCs recycled," said JD Ambati, founder and CEO of EverestLabs. "Our highly accurate, easily deployed vision systems and robots make it possible to retrofit existing sorting and last chance lines at a cost of ownership that makes perfect sense for both MRFs and aluminum packaging companies."

LRS opened The Exchange, an MRF in August 2023, and installed an EverestLabs RecycleOS Robotics cell later this year. Supported by EverestLabs' material recovery efforts, the facility is able to divert 224 million pounds of recyclables annually, resulting in thousands of tons of avoided CO2 emissions for the Chicagoland area. The unveiling and environmental mission behind The Exchange has opened opportunities to change the conversation around waste management and educate corporate partners and organizations on responsible production, consumption, and recycling behaviours.

"At LRS, we're all about pushing the boundaries in recycling, and partnering with EverestLabs to install this innovative technology amplifies our commitment to sustainable recycling solutions," said John Sliwicki, area vice president at LRS. "By integrating EverestLabs' RecycleOS robot into our Chicagoland materials recovery facility, we've further enhanced our ability to rescue recyclables from ending up in landfills and advanced our mission of investing in infrastructure improvements that lessen our environmental impact."

The Exchange accepts up to 1,200 tons per day of municipal solid waste (MSW) and currently processes 25 tons of recyclables per hour. The facility features a transfer station and a single-stream sorting line with space for future expansion and accepts single-stream recyclables, non-hazardous and non-special MSW, and other various recyclables.

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