Sarasota's recycling robot sorts at lightning speed

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A first-of-its kind robot is being put to work in recycling facilities across Florida, and Sarasota is the first in the region to show off how it is changing the way trash is processed.

Sarasota’s single-stream recycling facility just unveiled their state-of-the-art recycling robot system powered by artificial intelligence.

Single Stream Recyclers co-owner John Hansen said it works twice as fast as people do in a job that’s less pleasant than many.

Hansen doesn’t sugarcoat it. Working in a recycling facility is a tough job.

“It’s very dangerous. From the hypodermic needles that come through. From the dirty diapers. They’re either going to love it or they’re going to hate it,” Hansen said of potential employees.

That’s why Single Stream Recyclers in Sarasota invested in robots.

“These robots show up every day, all day,” Hansen pointed out.

The robots’ artificial intelligence identifies, sorts, and grabs recyclables from the stream.

“It looks at a milk jug at hundreds of different angles and recognizes it as that, just as the human brain would. And it decides that’s a natural milk jug and it can pick it,” Hansen explained. “It’s looking at every individual piece. It’s able to identify it, and it boxes it on the belt. And then it tells the brain or the hands pick it or don’t pick it.”

The system’s camera catches every item before it reaches the robot, serving as the AI for the robot.

Its picking speed is incomparable to a human.

“We used to have a human there sorting those things out, and if you’re making 20 to 30 picks per minute and this robot can make 70 to 80 picks when it needs to,” Hansen said, but he insists it isn’t taking away anyone’s job. “We have, I want to say 45 to 50 employees here right now, at the moment. We have not removed one person since adding the six robots.”

Brent Hildebrand, who represents the robotic company, says his robots supplement a human’s work and saves money.

“We know that these robots are going to pay for themselves within two years,” Hildebrand told FOX 13 News.

By that time, Hansen is hoping it’s a whole new world when it comes to recycling.

“The end-product that we sell to our customers is that much better. Therefore it will drive a higher price for us,” Hansen said.

The AI for the robot has been around for about three years. Right now, they’re in recycling facilities in about a dozen states nationwide.