In a significant move to advance the integration of AI in waste management, Dutch recycling leader Bollegraaf Group is making a strategic investment in the UK-based AI startup Greyparrot. Greyparrot specializes in waste analytics using computer vision, aiming to bring about a transformative impact on municipal waste management processes.
Bollegraaf, a veteran manufacturer of Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) and recycling systems, has been exploring AI applications in recent years. In 2021, they established an innovation test center in the Netherlands and formed an in-house AI team to integrate analytics with their recycling machinery.
Greyparrot, founded in 2019, focuses on waste intelligence through AI-driven computer vision. Over nearly five years, they’ve developed technology crucial for enhancing the quality of recycled products, specifically plastics. This includes the recovery of valuable recyclable materials from mixed or contaminated waste streams, reducing reliance on landfills or incineration.
AI team transfer
The collaboration’s key objective is to transition Greyparrot from being a data producer to a decision-maker. The aim is to use AI to drive sorting and recovery machinery efficiently. This becomes increasingly vital as the global waste production continues to rise, necessitating more intelligent waste management to prevent environmental challenges.
While Greyparrot has primarily retrofitted existing recycling plants with its AI devices, the company envisions future waste recovery facilities incorporating AI from the outset. The Greyparrot Analyzer, their AI camera hardware unit, is poised to play a central role in the automation of waste management, optimizing recovery rates and improving output quality.
As part of the strategic partnership, Bollegraaf is transferring its AI vision business to Greyparrot, including a team of six people. The deal also involves a cash investment reported to be $12.8 million, granting Bollegraaf a non-controlling, non-majority stake in Greyparrot. This collaboration aims to accelerate the digitization of the waste sector by combining Bollegraaf’s expertise in machinery and robotics with Greyparrot’s AI-powered waste analytics.
The partnership will see Bollegraaf serving as a global distributor and strategic partner for Greyparrot’s AI camera system hardware. Greyparrot’s technology, currently deployed across 14 countries, is used for waste analytics in recycling plants, covering approximately 70% of the European market.
Challenges of AI in waste management
Despite challenges in AI-powered waste processing, such as managing the complexity of plastics, the partnership anticipates leveraging Bollegraaf’s industry experience to advance Greyparrot’s technology. The goal is to scale automation-friendly, efficiency-focused waste management infrastructure, addressing the increasing volume of waste worldwide.
Greyparrot emphasizes the need for a significant increase in waste management infrastructure and AI-driven efficiency to tackle the impending waste crisis. They believe the market is reaching a turning point, with changing regulations in Europe, including plastic taxes and Extended Producer Responsibility rules, driving collaboration across the value chain.
While the focus remains on improving waste management efficiency, Greyparrot also sees potential in holding producers accountable for waste through AI-driven insights. The granular data provided by AI can influence brands to adopt sustainable practices in packaging design, contributing to a circular economy and minimizing environmental impact. Greyparrot’s vision extends beyond waste analytics, aiming to influence the entire lifecycle of products, putting pressure on producers to prioritize sustainability.