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Recycling: An Opaque Trade – Robohub

The Recycling Trade in the US is a for-profit trade. They revenue from taking recyclable materials, refining it, and reselling it to corporations at a less expensive value than producing the fabric from scratch.

Provide and Demand in Recycling

Should you take a look at the demand facet of the recycling trade, an array of multi-billion greenback corporations like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are incentivized to purchase recycled items and scale back their supplies prices.

On the provision facet, ~300 million tons of trash are generated yearly in the US. Estimates recommend that as much as 75% of that’s recyclable.

On paper, it appears clear that maximizing the quantity of trash the US recycles is in everybody’s curiosity. One problem although, lower than a 3rd of the trash finally ends up recycled.

Areeb, co-founder of Glacier, breaks down the multi-layered reasoning behind why the Recycling trade can not deal with this quantity of trash, and what Glacier is doing to handle this.

Areeb Malik

Areeb Malik is the Co-Founding father of Glacier, and he’s on a private mission to combat local weather change and extract worth from the $123B value of recyclables that fill the landfills and oceans. Earlier than founding Glacier, Areeb was a Software program Engineer at Fb, the place he used Machine Studying and Pc Imaginative and prescient to construct out new product options.



Areeb Malik: Thanks a lot for having me, Abate.

Abate: Earlier than we dive into what glacier is doing, I’d love to simply get an outline of the recycling trade.

Areeb Malik: Yeah, positive. I feel the recycling and the waste trade is a kind of spots that we as shoppers, you understand, rely actually closely upon. Most of us don’t actually know the way it works. And that was actually the case with me earlier than I began working at Glacier. it’s fairly fascinating. It’s a, it’s a extremely huge trade.

There are quite a lot of gamers concerned and there’s some huge cash that form of flows by behind the scenes. I feel one thing that folks don’t take into consideration is we spend fairly a bit of cash each month having our trash and our recycling and our compost simply magically disappear from our curbs. Proper?

It’s like many multiples of what we pay for our Netflix subscriptions. it goes to, it goes to the waste trade. and the rationale for that’s cuz it’s quite a lot of work behind the scenes. usually talking, I’ll form of run by it at a excessive degree.

_*How does recycling work? *_

Properly, you as a client otherwise you as a enterprise, take your recycling bin out to the curb. That’s kinda the tip of your involvement.

A truck comes over. These vehicles are often known as _*haulers*_ within the trade. they dump all your bins into their truck and drive round, click on all of your neighbor’s stuff and take it to a facility. Often known as a “supplies restoration facility” or a MRF (Pronounced “Merf”) for shorts.

Love the title Merf.

Um, that MRF’s job is to type. So you place a bunch of stuff into the bin quite a lot of it wasn’t recyclable as a result of as a client, you may not know what’s recyclable or isn’t. after which throughout the stuff that’s truly recyclable it must be sorted aside. Trigger if you wish to truly do one thing with these recyclable commodities, you have to type the bottles aside from the cans, aside from the cardboard. Et cetera.

Um, this huge sorting problem is sort of arduous to do. we will dive extra into how they do it trigger that’s the place our firm focuses. however to simply provide the subsequent steps in what occurs is, you understand, this MRF creates, for example, a giant pile of aluminum cans. What it does is then condenses these cans right into a cubic block, often known as a bale, and sells these bales to what we name a reclaimer or a recycler who buys what they hope is only one commodity.

Proper? So for example, aluminum.

Um, they take that and so they do some course of with it to show it again into both extra aluminum cans or another materials that may be produced from recycled aluminum that occurs for plastics that occurs for cardboard. That occurs for a bunch of various commodities.

Um, and the rationale that is that is vital is as a result of that aluminum can and that plastic bottle, there’s quite a lot of vitality, quite a lot of potential vitality kinda saved in that commodity.

Um, and if you happen to’re producing one thing new it’s truly much more* vitality environment friendly* to make use of that *recycled commodity* than to go mine for uncooked ore, or get the petroleum for the brand new plastic bottle, or no matter you may be doing. And so that you truly get actually huge vitality financial savings through the use of recycled commodities as a substitute of utilizing virgin inventory.

Um, in order that’s variety, that’s kinda within the overview, clearly that, that reclaimer that recycler sells uncooked aluminum or uncooked plastic chips to some producer who makes new bottles or shirts or sneakers or no matter, no matter they should.

Abate: Yeah. And does that vitality saving that you just get from recycling? Does that additionally switch right into a decrease total value than getting it from the Virgin materials?

Areeb Malik: Yeah, completely.

if you happen to’re a producer of aluminum cans, there are two methods you possibly can produce them, proper?

You may both pay for the uncooked supplies. that’s gonna come within the type of aluminum, that aluminum that comes from uncooked supplies is gonna need to pay for the mining and the delivery and, and the whole lot that’s concerned.

The, you understand, Distillation of their uncooked ore into precise aluminum, the whole lot that goes in that course of versus you should purchase aluminum from a recycler. that comes from all they needed to do was take a bunch of cans and soften them down and clear them up a bit bit. and so it’s truly lots cheaper as a result of that recycler didn’t spend as a lot time or effort form of getting people who, that uncooked aluminum to you.

So, yeah. If we take a look at aluminum energy-wise, a recycled aluminum can takes 97% much less vitality to supply than a virgin can. I can’t inform you precisely what which means financially, however you possibly can, you possibly can form of think about the fee financial savings that come together with that.

Abate: Yeah, no, that’s an enormous [00:05:00] distinction. and so when, you understand, you talked about aluminum, so there are positively sure supplies which can be extra beneficial to the companies who’re gonna be very incentivized at this level to truly spend money on recycled supplies than different ones. What can be the hierarchy of the very beneficial recyclable parts after which those that possibly we recycle, however it’s not as clear lower that there’s a monetary motive to take action?

Areeb Malik: Yeah, that’s a extremely good query. And it’s, it’s not an easy one. Sadly, the simple hierarchy I may give you proper now could be that metals are Supreme. Metals are nice as a result of, with aluminum or metal, they’re what we name infinitely recyclable. Proper? You may take a can soften it down, form it into a brand new can, put a drink in it, return it, soften it down make a brand new can and go in circles endlessly.

With one thing like plastic or, you understand, we like to think about our plastics, not as simply plastic, however the precise sort of plastic resin. So P E T, which is your triangle one plastic as we name it. whenever you sometimes recycle plastic, you don’t truly come again precisely the place you begin, you are inclined to what we name a down cycle.

And that’s why you see quite a lot of corporations promoting shirts and sneakers and luggage that had been as soon as produced from plastic bottles. Trigger you possibly can truly take the plastic bottle, spin it down into polyester fiber, after which promote that once more. however then whenever you recycle that bag, proper, is there a marketplace for that?

So that is what we name down biking. We form of go round in a circle, however we find yourself producing one thing that simply can’t be recycled on the finish of the day. and so when you consider the hierarchy of commodities yeah, like steel’s supreme, Plastics are actually beneficial as a result of there’s quite a lot of demand for them.

Paper is fairly stable. Cardboard proper now, particularly within the pandemic, they name brown gold as a result of it’s tremendous beneficial as nicely. Newspaper, workplace prints, and stuff like that begins to get much less beneficial.* Glass is a extremely fascinating one as a result of it’s, infinitely recyclable, however it’s additionally actually heavy.*

And so if it’s a must to drive a bunch of glass bottles from one facility to a different. There’s a value to that as nicely. and in order that’s, that’s form of blended. quite a lot of services don’t take care of glass. Plenty of them do it form of relies on how shut their purchaser is.

Abate: Would the glass be melted down and reformed or it might simply be actually reused as it’s by the identical firm that made it?

Areeb Malik: Yeah. For probably the most half, it’s going to be melted all the way down to reform. Trigger that’s the method of glass is much like that of steel. Should you soften it down, it may form of simply reshape.

I might think about there’s a giant push by people who find themselves they make canned soda to make use of recyclable steel. And so How does that motivation by these industries have an effect on the recycling trade particularly “steel cans”?

Areeb Malik: Yeah. Nice query. So if you happen to, if you happen to produce cans, let’s say you’re Coke, proper?

And also you produce aluminum cans for you, you may not care in regards to the recyclability and, and the inexperienced thumb side, otherwise you, you may and both method, you’ve got this sort of monetary incentive, proper?

You say I need to produce a bunch of cans. I’m truly keen to pay 2 cents additional per can to be inexperienced and sustainable cuz that’s in our ESG pointers firm, no matter. both method, what you’re is:

okay, cool. I should buy a can that’s produced from virgin materials or I should buy a can that’s produced from recycled materials.

Um, I stated earlier that recycled materials is cheaper, however then, the opposite trick there’s that it’s not cheaper if there aren’t any recycled cans to purchase, proper?

So if you’re a aluminum can recycler and also you don’t have any cans coming in, nicely, you possibly can’t promote any out. And that discount in provide goes to yield greater costs.

Um, so if you happen to’re Coke and also you’re these two choices, you’re gonna go together with no matter is cheaper minus that fudge issue to your ESG form of motivation.

Um, However, you understand, if we will get the recycled can to be extra plentiful and we will make it cheaper for that recycled can flip into uncooked aluminum once more, then Coke is hastily… It doesn’t actually matter in the event that they’re a inexperienced thumb or not. They’re going to be incentivized to buy recycled inventory.

As a result of it’s cheaper and that’s form of what the target of the recycling trade is. And that’s what the target of my firm glacier is, in addition to Can we manipulate the economics of recycling such that it doesn’t actually matter if you happen to’re, you understand, making an attempt to do good by the planet or not? The financially sensible factor to do is to purchase recycled.

Um, and that’s the, that’s the target that the target, I feel we’re all pushing towards.

Abate: Do you’ve got any concept what proportion of the particular items, the cans which can be being produced, are being recycled?

Areeb Malik: Yeah. it’s a terrific query. I feel if I zoom into cans, I don’t have that quantity off the highest of my head. And I feel one of many issues that you just and I’ll form of unearth over the course of this dialog is there’s not quite a lot of good knowledge on this trade. it may not shock you, however whenever you throw your bottle into the recycling, then no person’s actually monitoring that bottle at that time.

Um, and so there’s some info on the market, however it’s not very sturdy. what I can inform you is that throughout the US, we recycle about [00:10:00] 30% of our waste stream. So the opposite 70% is both non-recyclable or is simply by no means recovered. estimates proper now say that we might recycle as much as 75%. So if you happen to take a look at the quantity of trash we generate per yr that’s 300 million tons throughout the US.

30% of that, that’s a couple of hundred million is recycled or composted. however that remaining there’s one other 45% chunk that may very well be recycled or composted that isn’t being captured. and* that’s clearly a giant drawback,* proper? And that’s gonna come to:

A. Shoppers, not recycling correctly.

B. Packaging is being made in a method such that it’s simply not recyclable.

C. The markets not current for sure kinds of recyclables.

For example, a plastic bag in principle, sure. Could possibly be recycled, however there’s no marketplace for it. And so all of these items form of mixed collectively to say, yeah, we have now 45% of the way in which stream that may very well be recycled. That’s not at the moment being captured.

Um, how a lot of, you understand, I’m positive the people who find themselves placing stuff within the rubbish can within the recycling bins, they’re not considering that 70% of the stuff that they’re placing in there’s not recyclable.

Abate: They’re considering it’s possibly 90% and possibly threw in a single factor that they’re form of iffy about. so how a lot of this can be a simply client error? How a lot of that is the issue of the packaging? The individuals who make the packaging are considerably deceptive about whether or not or not it’s recycling. And is that this, a form of authorities initiative that should occur that truly modifications this?

Areeb Malik: Yeah. I might, I might say it’s it, it’s straightforward in charge the patron right here, however I might argue that it’s actually not the patron’s fault. I’ve been working within the recycling trade for 3 years now and I nonetheless have hassle. With like a yogurt container. I’m like, ah, like which bin does this go in? and it’s, it’s actually arduous to inform and it, the issue is like, it varies based mostly on the person packaging.

It varies on the place within the nation you might be, what does your native MRF truly settle for and type? All of those questions form of are very opaque. There’s no clear reply. And so you possibly can’t actually blame the patron for this at this level. It’s, it’s such a tough drawback to resolve. No surprise they’ll’t determine it out.

Um, I feel the most important perpetrator proper now could be the truth that producers produce with out fascinated by the tip of lifetime of their product. So quite a lot of occasions you’ll go to the grocery retailer and also you’ll get a factor a bundle or no matter, and it’ll be a mixture for example of a number of supplies. a terrific instance of that is Tetra pack.

Tetra pack is ubiquitous field for holding liquids or in juices, milk, no matter. and Tetra pack itself is made from a number of layers of various commodities. So you bought paper, plastic, aluminum, all within the linings, and it does a terrific job preserving your drinks, however that materials is tremendous unrecoverable as a result of how are you gonna peel the plastic and the aluminum aside, after which extract the aluminum.

All of that form of stuff, proper. There are processes in place for this, however as a client, such as you’re not supposed to have the ability to do something. And if it’s a must to take a look at who’s in charge there, nicely, couldn’t you truly produce a container that’s designed for finish of life, if you’re some juice producer and also you need to guarantee that your juice carton does have place within the round financial system?

Um, and sadly to my authentic level, proper? Like they don’t care about this. What issues to them is having the ability to produce lots, and do it at an affordable value. And they also go together with no matter makes probably the most sense. once more, the dream of recycling is can we make what makes probably the most sense of commodity that has excellent circularity?

Abate: Yeah. And so the native MRFs, these are, are these personal establishments or are these authorities establishments?

Areeb Malik: Yeah, for probably the most half, they’re privately owned. A few ’em are privately owned by public corporations and about 10% are owned by municipalities.

And you understand, one, one factor that you just additionally talked about earlier, there’s like these totally different classes you could take your recycled trash and put it into metals, plastics, et cetera. However in lots of people’s houses, all you’ve got is a single blue recycling bin that you just throw the whole lot into. precisely.

Abate: Yeah. So, after which is that this, is that this part of the problem? Is that this a authorities factor the place they’re not sending out the best bins to all people’s homes, the place they want to have the ability to type it out individually by themselves?

Areeb Malik: it’s a, that’s a extremely fascinating query. It’s, it’s actually arduous to get good knowledge on what would work right here. So I’ll offer you a pair examples. Plenty of facil.., quite a lot of, quite a lot of communities across the nation, they provide what we name twin stream recycling, the place you even have two recycling bins, proper.

And the standard method they divide that’s containers. That’s gonna be your glass, plastic, cans, metal, no matter. After which paper the whole lot that’s, cardboard, mail, no matter. and there’s this idea often known as twin stream recycling. It was truly a giant factor again within the seventies, eighties, nineties, however it began to get phased out as a result of they discovered that folks, *shoppers like didn’t have the psychological vitality to do that.*

And so they discovered that if we get all people to dump the whole lot into one bin, we’ll at the least seize all of the stuff we care about, which is primarily metals and plastics. Proper. And so this [00:15:00] change went into, into place as a result of it simply made sense for, for an trade that didn’t actually have the, the energy to deal with this a lot form of inbound.

However what they ended up with is one other drawback the place now the whole lot’s blended collectively. the, the opposite factor to consider is like what, what if each client was answerable for like dividing the whole lot into each particular person commodity sort? clearly I, you possibly can hear that and be like, that sounds, that sounds tiring.

Even, I might say that sounds tiring, cuz like I stated earlier than, I nonetheless have hassle splitting a factor into the rights, the best location, even with simply two bins. there are communities, very small communities that do that. There’s a terrific one you could examine in Japan, the place I feel they’ve like 30 or 40 various things, it’s a must to type your trash into you carry your bag over to a bit constructing.

And there’s a man in there who helps you type all of the components and like, yeah, that like works for purity’s sake, however like how many individuals are literally gonna try this versus simply dump all of it into the, the landfill. Prefer it, it’s a, it’s a difficult commerce off to play with and we don’t have quite a lot of good knowledge to say which one actually works higher

Abate: An fascinating factor about the US, the size of rubbish is simply considerably greater than quite a lot of different international locations. partially as a result of we’re producing extra rubbish per individual and likewise partially is a really huge nation. yeah.

Areeb Malik: We’re by inhabitants, I feel one twentieth or so of the world, however we produce 40% of its trash. So we’re a bit bit skewed in our ratios there.

Abate: What’s the scale of the particular trash being produced? Are you aware what it’s per individual?

Areeb Malik: So if we take a look at the us once more, we’re about 300 million tons of trash per yr. That’s that’s recyclable, compostable captured, not captured plus the whole lot that ought to go to landfill of that 300 million, like I stated, 30% a couple of hundred million is definitely recycled or composted.

Should you simply form of take that into, you understand, the inhabitants within the US, which I feel got here out to 330 million in 2021, we’re about for a family of 4. you’re about one ton of recyclables, not recycled yearly. So each single home, a automotive’s weight of, of stuff goes not recycled proper now as a result of we don’t have the infrastructure behind the scenes truly deal with it nicely.

Um, and if you happen to take that quantity to the highest, you’re that three tons of stuff, consumed three tons of recyclables that you just devour, as a family. and a few of that will get recycled.

Abate: Yeah, which is a mind-blowing quantity. It’s lots that you possibly can be recapturing and reselling.

Areeb Malik: Yeah, positively. It’s lots to be recapturing. It’s lots to consider, like, *why can we devour a lot?* how are these different international locations, these different folks all over the world getting by, with out doing it? lot of, lot of questions that I increase and hopefully, you understand, for the listeners now, they’re like, that’s elevating some eyebrows, like, oh my gosh, my home is producing three tons of recyclable stuff, and solely considered one of it’s getting recovered.

Abate: A sure portion of that may be companies and different massive industries which can be additionally producing waste, not simply the one the households.

Areeb Malik: Yeah, completely. Yeah. It’s, it’s actually not simply on households. Clearly, this quantity comes from you as an individual. , you throw some stuff in your bin at residence. Generally you go to Starbucks and also you toss it into the road, trash cans, all, all that stuff form of comes collectively. however it’s actually an issue, irrespective of the way you take a look at it.

Abate: So what’s glacier’s method to this drawback?

Areeb Malik: Yeah. So I talked a bit bit about that MRF proper? Their job is to type and the sorting, if you happen to take a look at form of the worldwide image of recycling from our opinion, the sorting piece has the most important worth so as to add with the smallest quantity of effort. And so it looks as if there are quite a lot of wins available on this sorting piece.

And the rationale for that is twofold. One is having the ability to drive the price of that sorting down will drive the price of that materials down. So we talked about that Coke instance if you may get the price of the recycle can down. Then you definately’re gonna be extra incentivized as Coke to buy recycled cans.

And one of many huge drivers of value goes to be the sortation piece. I’ll notice that one other huge driver of value, which we must always not ignore proper now could be freight. The transport of stuff from one place to the opposite, simply driving tons and tons of trash round clearly prices lots. But when we’re that sorting drawback, it’s a huge drawback proper now.

And it’s an issue that might use quite a lot of assist. so what we do at Glacier is we make know-how that helps that sortation course of. if you happen to look inside considered one of these MRFs, you’re gonna see primarily two kinds of sorting processes. One, I like to contemplate high-quantity, low-quality sortation.

So that they use machines utilizing spinning discs or magnets or one thing form of heavy steel, old fashioned know-how that does a extremely good job processing quite a lot of stuff. and it may type, for example, huge items of cardboard aside from small plastic bottles. [00:20:00] however I stated low high quality as a result of it’d both finish the like high-density to low-density piece.

For example, you’re gonna see quite a lot of stuff that shouldn’t have been there. For example, if you happen to’re making an attempt to type paper aside from the whole lot else, utilizing a density sorter, you’re gonna find yourself with quite a lot of plastic movies, and plastic luggage within the paper stream. So you’ve got this high quality that’s, that’s an issue.

Um, and related on the draw back on the flip facet you’ve got,

Abate: That is with none further computer systems, or processing? It is a utterly mechanical method?

Areeb Malik: Yeah, precisely. These are utterly mechanical approaches to sorting. they’re getting barely smarter, however they’re, it’s, it’s fairly form of blind because it stands at the moment.

After which on the flip facet, there are the high-quality, low-quantity sorting strategies. What that method is is, is folks whose job is to face above conveyor belts and type by what these machines didn’t get proper. and likewise to type by stuff, to forestall the machines from getting harm within the first place. You may have lots of people inside these services doing, and, and I feel they do a terrific job, proper?

Like an individual’s eyes and an individual’s fingers are implausible. when it comes to doing one of these activity, however there’s solely a lot a, an individual can do. the downside there, after all, is that persons are additionally very costly. and so if you happen to’re making an attempt to drive the prices of this finish output down folks’s a extremely tough possibility to tug on.

Uh, the opposite tough factor about that’s that persons are actually arduous to rent for these, these roles. as you may think, it’s not essentially a really fascinating job. we have now spoken to a number of services throughout the nation and all of them echo the identical grievance. It’s identical to yeah my persons are like, it’s actually arduous to get folks to do that job.

Uh, we talked to a facility up in Michigan and so they have a station or a facility that has had 30 sorting stations obtainable within the final two years. The most individuals they’d within the facility on a given day was fourteen. So that you’re quite a lot of services that identical to can not presumably fill all of the spots they want.

And since you’ve got the excessive amount, low-quality machines working and also you don’t have sufficient high-quality, low-quantity folks doing the QC you find yourself producing low-quality outputs. Whenever you produce low-quality output,, you promote it for much less. The customer has to do further sorting. The tip output that they produce is decrease high quality.

Um, and so form of the whole lot is degraded by this, this sorting drawback not being performed effectively and prime quality sufficient.

So let me sit again as much as “what does Glacier do?” as a result of that was the unique query. *What we do is we construct robots.*

* W**e use pc imaginative and prescient to look down at a conveyor belt inside considered one of these services and establish each single factor that’s coming down that belt**.*

Um, we will classify. Mainly, you understand, recyclers consider commodities in a really particular method. And so we simply know that code and say that’s P E T that’s HCP that’s an aluminum can, no matter it may be. we will use pc imaginative and prescient to try this. After which we cross that info to a robotic sorting system that may then separate issues on a belt, nonetheless, it wants.

Um, and so it’s very dynamic. It’s very adaptable. It’s very straightforward to put in inside these services. and the concept is principally right here’s like a, an possibility that you just as a facility can use. Should you’re, if you happen to can’t even rent these roles, right here’s a method you could truly drive the price of your operations down and we hope additionally the standard of your operations up.

Abate: Yeah. So if you happen to, if you happen to had been to assist us visualize what this technique seems like, is it a conveyor belt with a digicam on high and two robotic arms which can be, you understand, like what precisely does it appear to be?

Areeb Malik: Yeah, it’s a, it’s query. So I feel the very first thing you wanna visualize is these services these services, they range place to position, however usually talking, you’ve got a number of layers, a number of flooring, and on every of these flooring, there are conveyor belts. There are these huge machines I talked about earlier.

They do some form of sorting quite a lot of loud noise. the whole lot’s form of shifting in all places without delay. Very chaotic. And I feel very sometimes you don’t have quite a lot of area, proper? These, these locations are fairly tight. Such as you stroll round belts and there are folks saying that there are shoots over right here to drop stuff in. Not a ton of area so as to add new gear wherein is likely one of the tips of working in these services.

Proper. You may’t simply say, Hey, like right here’s a 20 by 20 sq.… or 20 foot by 20-foot machine that may come and like, do your sorting. Trigger like, they’re like, “Properly, how am I gonna match that in?”

So think about that area, you’ve got some conveyor belt someplace that’s shifting stuff alongside. what we do is we principally construct a machine that straddles that conveyor belt.

Um, so with out having do any retrofits or main retrofits to your facility. We simply pop a machine proper on high of your conveyor belt. there’s a digicam that sits a bit bit upstream of the robots and appears immediately down at it. Makes use of pc imaginative and prescient to, like I stated, classify the whole lot coming by and the robotic itself.

Uh, yeah, you truly, you bought the quantity, proper. We do use two arms. however the concept is principally a collection of robotic arms that may principally reply to pc imaginative and prescient. choose up gadgets off the conveyor belt. Transfer ’em to some location, whether or not that’s a bin that they’re gathering in or a shoot that takes it to a different belt, or a separate belt altogether, and drive it to wherever they should drop this merchandise.

[00:25:00] We drop the merchandise there.

Abate: Yeah. So, you understand, and simply fascinated by this from a robotics perspective, there are positively quite a lot of challenges with trash. they’re random sizes and shapes and possibly a bit bit moist, probably, like who is aware of? Proper. so how, how can you overcome the problem of having the ability to choose up particular person items and transfer them to particular person containers or different belts?

Areeb Malik: yeah, yeah. It’s a extremely good query. And that’s, that is likely one of the hardest issues that we have now to take care of, cuz you’re completely proper. I’ll get to the moist piece later, however like, if you happen to simply think about a plastic bottle, like only one plastic bottle, identical model, identical dimension, like there are a thousand ways in which factor comes down the belt.

Um, it may be crumpled in several methods. It may be stuffed with water or not. It may be obfuscated by another materials. And so you’ve got this actually arduous problem. The roboticists on right here will perceive, choose and place is likely one of the holy grail challenges of robotics at the moment.

Um, and there are PhD packages devoted to designing a gripper that may do in addition to the human hand. our problem after all, is that we need to make one thing that’s excessive ROI for these services. and is, is maintainable, proper? If I construct you a $500,000, you understand, robotic arm that may solely are you aware, three gadgets a minute, or, you understand, 10 gadgets a minute.

That’s not ok for these services. so how can we overcome it? It’s, it’s a, it’s a improvement. I feel it’s positively like a, some extent of focus for our firm. And one of many issues that our engineers are working actually arduous on fascinated by, proper? Like how do you design finish effectors that stability excessive throughputs with the flexibility to efficiently choose as a lot as doable?

And we have now a metric internally that we name our choose charges and getting that factor near 100 is the dream. However if you happen to take a look at simply applied sciences on the market, even the very best robots, aren’t hitting 100% choose price for gadgets. And that’s one thing that we have now to simply take care of to the wetness piece, to the dirtiness piece.

Yeah. Like that simply makes it more durable. Proper? You probably have a grimy bottle coming by. You may in all probability choose it up the primary time, however that’s going to clog up quite a lot of your parts and that makes the reliability of your machine tougher. So how do you choose an merchandise that’s soiled with out inflicting problem to your machine, or somewhat, how do you design a machine?

That’s straightforward to scrub and straightforward to replace components when it will get too soiled. that may sense when it’s not choosing nicely and alert the upkeep workforce. Hey, like, are you able to come clear my, you understand, like gears or hose or no matter that must be cleaned as a result of it’s gotten gunky. these are all challenges that I feel are very accessible inside robotics.

Um, however no person’s ever considered these issues within the context of, of trash. And so the issues that we get to resolve you understand, on our personal over right here, which is fairly thrilling. however they’re, they’re I feel, I feel they’re, they’re, they’re doable. They’re actually achievable challenges, which is, I feel the thrilling factor about being right here.

It doesn’t really feel prefer it’s unachievable in our present context.

Abate: Yeah. And one profit is that, though you wanna clearly maximize the quantity of things that you just choose up and drop. You’re actually, you’re actually maximizing for getting good ROI and having the ability to replicate what an individual can do, however do it 24/ 7 versus eight hours a day and, and do it at scale. So even if you happen to say miss a water bottle, that simply goes into your percentages and also you issue that out, and possibly it’s not the tip of the world as a result of an individual might additionally simply miss one thing or, worse off, not even be working as a result of it’s 6:00 PM

Areeb Malik: Positively, And that’s one of many good issues about being in our area. , I take into consideration my colleagues within the self-driving automotive area and, and if you happen to’re doing self-driving automobiles, there are lot of those different robots. Like you aren’t allowed to make errors, that robotic can not fail.

Um, and also you spend quite a lot of efforts form of engaged on the 0.99999. Proper. whereas for us, like, yeah, it’s wonderful. If we. 0.98 prefer it’s, it’s like, it’s a really excessive ROI machine if we get to that time. So it’s completely okay if we make these errors. And what that enables us to do is it permits us to give attention to the larger image.

We don’t get caught up within the particulars and we will truly do, is say, okay, cool. Like this machine works 98% effectively. Like, what else, what else does does recycling want? What different robotics do we have to handle your, how do we have to evolve this machine to deal with this set up location or this commodity sort or, or no matter it may be.

Abate: Yeah. And so additionally to again it as much as the software program facet, there’s additionally object detection and classification placing this factor into teams. is that, or can you leverage some open supply sources on the market? Is that this already a resolve drawback or is that this one other massive problem of your organization?

Areeb Malik: Yeah, it’s, it’s query. I feel usually we wish to construct issues in home right here. One of many issues that’s distinctive about what we’re constructing is it’s a robotic customized design for the recycling trade. [00:30:00] quite a lot of occasions what you are able to do is you possibly can go take an off the shelf robotic system and simply plop it into place and say, okay, like right here’s a, right here’s a Delta robotic.

Um, I’m going to place it into this trade and I’m gonna connect some, you understand, primary processing software program, however the whole lot else form of goes pre-written. the issue with that’s that these off the shelf, robots, these form of customized generic, or sorry, these generic robots they have a tendency to not hit the ROI marks that these services are on the lookout for.

And so we, our complete premise is that if we construct a customized robotic, proper? It’s like from the bottom up, that is designed to be optimum for these recycling services. Will they prefer it extra and the suggestions we acquired actually early on and we proceed to get as sure, like that’s, that may be a enormous win for them. Cuz it’s less complicated.

It’s simpler to keep up. It’s simpler to put in all of these things in relation to the software program. That additionally means we have now to write down it ourselves. you are able to do some stuff off the shelf. however sometimes talking like. Should you, if you wish to customise it and make it very particular to a recycling facility.

Yeah. It does contain quite a lot of customized software program to be written as nicely. it’s form of enjoyable. you get to resolve challenges which can be actually distinctive. Like I stated, lots of people have solved issues for choose and place, however not lots of people have thought in regards to the, the particular points that come contained in the recycling area.

Like we had been speaking about, what if a bottle is soiled? Like what do you do about it? and so, yeah, customized software program as nicely, customized, it’s all, it’s all customized. And the concept is that if we will customise the machine. we will construct a machine that these services are literally gonna profit from. That’s in the end our purpose is to assist them do their recycling and their sortation higher.

Abate: Mm. So, after which simply to get an image of the make-up of your workforce at glacier, are you guys one thing like 50% software program engineers, 50% additionally some {hardware} and hardcore robotics folks.

Areeb Malik: Yeah, that sounds about proper. I feel that’s that that’s a reasonably good cut up. I might, I might say like as founder, proper? I used to be a software program engineer earlier than this. and if I take a look at What I’m constructing at the moment versus what I used to construct. you want so many disciplines of engineering to make this work, proper.

We’d like CV engineers, generalist software program engineers, firmware engineers, electrical engineers, the entire, the entire slew of engineering. And so, yeah, we have now a reasonably broad spectrum. We’re a small firm. So everybody will get form of like stretch their wings and form of discover into like totally different realms. however yeah, I might say on the entire we’re, we’re form of divided alongside the, the software program {hardware} line, like about 50%.

Abate: Yeah. Yeah. And so I additionally know your workforce simply very just lately got here out of stealth mode and also you’re positively nonetheless very a lot a startup. Have you ever guys already began or planning on quickly doing a pilot at a sorting facility and having the ability to check it out in actual time.

Areeb Malik: Yeah. So I can’t title too many names, however we have now performed two pilots already and we have now a 3rd one which’s ongoing at the moment. and so we have now put these machines on the market. It’s nice to see them run. It’s all the time so enjoyable. Simply activate our, our, you understand, nanny cams and be like, oh appear to be there’s our robots sorting by recyclables.

How cool. and so, yeah, we, we, we have now a pair pilots form of underway we’re at some extent as an organization the place the target proper now could be principally refine this machine. So it’s. It’s it’s excellent. Proper. We, we all know that these prospects, like, they don’t perceive why constructing these things is difficult. They simply desire a machine that works.

Um, and so our goal is to get the machine to work so nicely, they don’t even give it some thought, proper. As a buyer, you simply wanna be like, okay, cool. I’ll purchase this robotic. You put in it. And you then by no means give it some thought once more. And we wanna get to that time. In order that’s the place quite a lot of the main target is true now.

Um, when it comes to, when it comes to what we’re creating on the engineering facet.

Abate: So that you’ve now you’ve put in this technique in a pair totally different locations. Are there any key learnings that you just’ve gathered from seeing this truly in place inside a, a buyer’s sorting facility and so they’re truly getting their fingers on it and utilizing it. And now they’re sitting there evaluating this to what an individual can be doing two months in the past.

Areeb Malik: Yeah, it’s a, a extremely good query, I feel from their perspective, proper? Like after all they’re going to examine this to an individual and robots and persons are they’re, you understand, analogs, however they function very in another way from one another. as I form of talked about earlier, like an individual. They’re our fingers are so good.

I’ve seen folks pull a can out of a plastic cup earlier than and so they take the, can they put into the can pile, take the plastic cup, they put within the… Like robots by no means gonna be capable of try this. At the very least not, not in like the following 10 years. Proper? That’s not one thing we’re making an attempt to attain. And so getting them to know this distinction, like this isn’t a defacto alternative to your folks.

It’s a sorting know-how that helps you obtain higher high quality at decrease prices. That’s what we’re promising. if you happen to take a look at the learnings we’ve, we’ve made thus far, I might say. These set up places, they’re wildly totally different, proper? You may’t simply make one robotic that does one factor. and put it right into a, performed a dozen totally different places, cuz every set up… the scale of the belt, the, the quantity of density on the belt, the commodities you’re choosing, the place are you taking it to?

All these things, modifications, set up to put in. and so one of many, the nice issues about robotics is you possibly can, [00:35:00] you possibly can program the software program to be very dynamic, proper? And you’ll say this, this {hardware}. It seems similar to that {hardware}, however these robots are literally very totally different on the within due to how they’re configured due to how they suppose based mostly on the stuff that’s coming down the road.

So having the ability to construct know-how that’s dynamic sufficient to deal with all kinds of conditions I feel is, is essential to our success.

Abate: Yeah. And are there different robotics gamers within the recyclable trade?

Areeb Malik: Yeah, there are a number of which can be possibly a few years older than us at this level. Should you take a look at the market as an entire, it’s, it’s positively very nascent. Plenty of the services we speak to have heard about these different recyclable sorry, these recycling robots. and quite a lot of them are, are ready for the time to be proper or they’re ready for his or her subsequent retrofit to suit them in.

Um, however if you happen to take a look at form of the market as an entire. Most services have heard about them, however haven’t put in our robots. if you happen to look form of past the robots of like, what else is gonna occur to those services? You step inside considered one of these services and also you’re gonna be fast to see like, oh, there are like 15 optimizations we might do.

Um, and so, you understand, robots first you understand, there’s comp rivals, however there’s quite a lot of area. After which past the robots, there’s a ton of alternative to simply construct out know-how that helps these services and helps the recycling trade function extra effectively.

Abate: mm-hmm yeah. So what’s subsequent at glacier?

Areeb Malik: What’s subsequent at Glacier, will we take over the recycling trade and repair the world?

Is, is the tip?? That’s subsequent.

what are we doing? So I form of talked about we have now these two prototypes the target technically is to get the machines, to be nearly as good as doable. after which begin getting them into extra you understand, services throughout the nation at that time, proper? Like as soon as we get this machine down and we will truly identical to, press the rocket ship button on it get these items in all places.

My imaginative and prescient is that one arm of glacier is these robots. And the query turns into, what else? What else can glacier do with our standing within the trade, with the know-how we have now with the folks we have now on our workforce? How else can we positively impression how we as a society deal with our waste?

Um, and there’s quite a lot of alternative there. There are quite a lot of concepts. There are quite a lot of issues we have to vet out within the markets.

Um, however as I discussed earlier than, this trade is basically huge and it might positively use a bit bit of affection from the tech trade. So we’re hoping to form of get the robotic up and working. Let that form of be an arm of the enterprise after which give attention to what comes subsequent.

How can we subsequent enhance our you understand, capability to, to take stuff away from the landfills and get it again into the financial system? is it compost? Is it knowledge? There’s an entire, complete slew of issues we may very well be going into. we, at this firm, by no means name ourselves a robotics firm. We take into account ourselves a recycling know-how firm.

Um, and so what comes subsequent is, is no matter we will do greatest to assist this trade align.

Abate: mm-hmm. superior. Superior. What’s a great way for folks to comply with up on glacier and your progress?

Areeb Malik: Yeah. So we’re, we’re engaged on our search engine optimization, however if you happen to if you happen to go Google search us, you’ll discover our LinkedIn, our Twitter, all that form of stuff, which we’re clearly you understand, posting on frequently with updates. we even have a web site which is endwaste.io.

Um, and so you possibly can go over there to take a look at a bit demo of the machine and form of see what it seems like, cuz I can’t clarify it nicely sufficient with my phrases. however you understand, check out what it seems like, see our open roles, all that form of stuff.

Abate: Thanks. Thanks for talking with us.

Areeb Malik: In fact it was, it was nice and it’s like I stated, it’s, it’s very thrilling to be sharing this info with folks as a result of I feel everybody must know a bit bit extra about how recycling works.


tags: Algorithm Controls, c-Atmosphere-Agriculture, cx-Atmosphere-Agriculture, Industrial Automation, podcast, Robotics know-how, startup

Abate De Mey
Founding father of Fluid Dev, Hiring Platform for Robotics

Abate De Mey
Founding father of Fluid Dev, Hiring Platform for Robotics



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