Amazon Launches AI-guided Robot Recycling Startup

Amazon has announced its 25th venture, an early-stage, female-led San Francisco startup called Glacier that for making next-generation, AI-guided recycling robots. This is part of Amazon’s climate tech venture fund launched in 2020 with $2 billion to invest in companies that intend developing potential solutions to its emissions reduction and environmental sustainability commitments.

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The Climate Pledge Fund and New Enterprise Associates are leading Glacier’s $7.7 million round, bringing the company’s total raised to $13 million. Amazon’s participation marks the second investment for its Female Founder Initiative, a dedicated pool of $53 million.

A company note said that the AI-endowed robots and other automation technologies could help materials recovery facilities build capacity and create revenue streams for selling collected material back to manufacturers eager to meet goals for using recycled content in their products and packaging. They work by using sensors and software intelligence to visually identify materials of the same type and separate them from waste streams. 

Highlights

  • They can pay off in less than a year.
  • They can identify more than 30 materials ranging from aluminum cans to toothpaste tubes. 
  • They can squeeze into tight spaces.

Amazon is collecting data from Glacier’s commercial pilot at a Northern California materials recovery facility to study how recycling recovery rates can be increased and how to sort materials that can be returned to manufacturers for use against their waste reduction and circular economy targets.

Market revenue for recycling robots is forecast to reach more than $10 billion by 2030, as facilities struggle with understaffing and the sheer volume of unique materials — nearly 300 million tons in the U.S. alone — that they are expected to process. Aside from Glacier, two companies that sell recycling robots are AMP Robotics and TOMRA

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