This is my Story – Recycleye

In today’s interview we get to know the startup Recycleye. We interview its Product Manager, Paloma Aldeguer.

What problem does your start-up address and what solution does it propose?

Presently, in material recovery facilities (MRFs), waste management companies spend up to 60% of their operational expenditure on employing up to 90 manual sorters per day.

This is where Recycleye comes in. Able to operate in adverse conditions 24 hours a week, 365 days a year, Recycleye Robotics is a purpose-built solution for picking dry mixed recyclables (DMR) in MRFs. Powered by deep machine learning and computer vision – which is as accurate as a human eye – MRFs can sort more consistently accurately than ever before.

Our solution also gives our clients full visibility and traceability to the purity of the waste going through their facilities. Using near real-time data, integrated with plant software such as SCADA, facilities are able to analyse their waste stream like never before.

How and why did you start this entrepreneurial adventure? 

This entrepreneurial adventure was started by our co-founders Peter Hedley and Victor Dewulf, who met while studying at university. After following different career paths for a few years, they came together to start Recycleye. Victor was starting a PhD in computer vision at Imperial, but dropped out when he recognised the potential application in the waste area. Peter and Victor’s vision was to create a system that could identify and sort individual materials in waste streams.

Recycling is primarily categorised by its purity, with mixed waste. When waste streams have higher purities – that is, purer concentrations of recyclable materials – they increase in value significantly. However, assessing purity is a more complicated, manual job, which sees significant staff turnover – Peter and Victor wanted to change this.

How do you expect the sector to evolve? And what expectations do you have for your start-up?

The sector is evolving rapidly. There are plenty of initiatives aligned with Recycleye’s strategy which enable key stakeholders – such as councils, plant managers and engineering companies – to incorporate our technology into their designs and operations.

That said, there is still a level of scepticism in the area that we must overcome, and the only way to do this is to set out the correct expectations of what our technology is able to do, as well as highlight the limitations. We have significantly increased our process thinking and collaboration with plant engineers to ensure optimal conditions for the robot are attainable in the unit location point, in order to enable maximum performance levels.

In terms of Recycleye’s expectations, we are currently at a fascinating stage of the company’s life. On track to double the team by June – and with $17M raised in our Series A funding round in January – we are scaling our footprint in all European markets, supporting plants across all regions to increase their sorting granularity.

Our current projects in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany and Italy have demonstrated how Recycleye is providing process traceability and robustness in the automation of facilities.

Any new developments in the near future that you would like to share with the rest of the start-ups?

Our core focus still resides in light packaging waste, or to use the industry terminology, dry mixed recyclables (DMR). More specifically, we are working in quality control cabin automation. However, we have begun the process of tapping into different recycling verticals within the area. These include scrap metal, electronic waste (WEEE), black bag… The list goes on. We are starting to unlock the versatility of our Artificial Intelligence (AI) in these fields.

Moreover, we are making developments within our core focus, DMR. Firstly, we are working on the recovery of multilayer materials, such as cartons, from fibre and aluminium lines. This creates an additional revenue stream for waste plants, whilst increasing the purity of both these existing outputs.

The second key focus is applying our technology to sort food-grade plastics from non-food grade. In testing, we are achieving incredibly high purities in collaboration with large organisations for HDPE, PET and PP.

Finally, we are exploring different mechanical systems that can be powered by our AI to position ourselves across the plants sorting process, complementing existing sensors which are common in MRFs, such as magnets and Near Infrared (NIR) sorters.

In what areas would you like to collaborate with other start-ups, companies or other organisations?

AI has many applications, whether that be within waste or outside it. We are always interested to learn how other companies are successfully applying it to similar or different use cases.

We have also seen there is great interest in setting up partnerships with product companies, who have a great interest in supporting the circularity of the products – through funding installations of our technology in waste facilities.

Aside from that, we are always interested in collaborating with waste management companies to install Recycleye Robotics in their plants and support the scaling of their process automation. Especially in the case of DMR, but also in metal and plastics reprocessing plant, where we can see different use cases that add incredible value to their operations. We are expanding our presence across Europe, and open to conversations with relevant companies wherever they may be located. If this is you, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Recycleye’s description: Link