LRS adopts EverestLabs robotics for aluminum can recovery with CMI funding

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EverestLabs RecycleOS powers sortation at The Exchange.

LRS plans to use RecycleOS to automate sortation at The Exchange. Source: EverestLabs

Companies are coming together to prove that robotics and artificial intelligence can help make recycling more economically viable. EverestLabs, which has developed RecycleOS for material recovery facilities, today said it is partnering with Lakeshore Recycling Systems. LRS is the fifth largest provider of independent waste-diversion, recycling, and portable services in the U.S.

LRS has installed EverestLabs’ RecycleOS sorting robot in The Exchange, a new material recovery facility (MRF). Ardagh Metal Packaging and Crown Holdings, members of the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI), provided funding support.

The robot works on The Exchange’s residual line to increase revenue and ensure maximum efficiency, recovery, and recycling of used beverage cans (UBCs), said the companies. It helps maintain quality control for more than 350,000 lb. (158,757.3 kg) of recycled aluminum each month, equivalent to about 12 million aluminum beverage cans.

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Recycling requires higher recovery rates

CMI’s 2020 “Aluminum Beverage Can: Driver of the U.S. Recycling System” report found that up to 25% of all UBCs entering MRFs may be missorted and lost due to non-recovery. In addition, industry statistics show that U.S. consumers recycle less than half of aluminum beverage cans.

“UBCs are not being captured and utilized to their fullest potential in the circular economy,” said CMI. The institute has set proper sortation at recycling centers as one of its four pillars of action to reach its U.S. UBC recycling rate targets.

Capturing missorted cans at MRFs is one way to increase the U.S. aluminum beverage can recycling rate, said CMI.

CMI is the national trade association of the metal can manufacturing industry and its suppliers in the U.S. The sector employs more than 28,000 people with plants in 33 states, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa, and it generates about $15.7 billion in direct economic activity, said CMI.

CMI, EverestLabs continue robotic recycling efforts

The LRS lease program is the latest in a multiyear CMI effort to demonstrate that new technologies can increase recycling revenue for MRFs by capturing missorted UBCs. The partnership came soon after a collaboration between CMI, EverestLabs, and Caglia Environmental that 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,” stated 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.”

“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,” added 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.”

Fremont, Calif.-based EverestLabs claimed that RecycleOS can help increase materials recovery rates, thus preventing greenhouse gas emissions and saving energy from manufacturing new packaging. Leading U.S., Canadian, and Japanese venture funds support the company.

LRS opens state-of-the-art recycling facility

Since 2013, LRS has served millions of residential and commercial customers across nine states: Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Kansas, and Arkansas. The company owns and operates more than 70 facilities and has nearly 2,300 full-time employees.

Rosemont, Ill.-based LRS announced the grand opening of The Exchange in August 2023. It installed an EverestLabs RecycleOS robotics cell later last year.

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. It accepts single-stream recyclables, non-hazardous and non-special MSW, and various other recyclables.

With RecycleOS, LRS said its facility is able to divert 224 million lb. (101.6 million kg) of recyclables annually, resulting in thousands of tons of avoided CO2 emissions for the Chicagoland area. The company added that it is using The Exchange to educate corporate partners and organizations on responsible production, consumption, and recycling behaviors.

“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.”

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