In 2019 only 9% of world plastics was recycled, and 50% still buried in landfills. With pollution growing dramatically, AI-powered robots are being tested to improve the sorting process and cut its carbon footprint. Experts stress the potential of the new technologies, but issue a call to industry players: “For this innovation to be effective, we need your support” .
When we throw a plastic bottle in the right waste container, we feel virtuous because we have done our part for the environment. However, we cannot imagine the huge effort that will be needed to ensure that our bottle is effectively recycled. After collecting, waste needs to be sorted, separated, and recycled into useful products, which sometimes risks costing more money and energy than producing new plastic. That is why only a fraction of plastic products is actually recycled. According to OECD estimates, in 2019 only 9% of world plastics was recycled, while 50% was buried in landfills and 22% mismanaged or left to pollute as litter. The amount of plastic already accumulated in the oceans, lakes, and river beds is staggering. Moreover, by 2060, global plastics use is projected to nearly triple from 2019 levels, driven by economic and population growth.