EverestLabs robots at work sorting material at the Sims Sunset Park MRF.

Two EverestLabs robots pick out material on the Sunset Park MRF’s last-chance line. | Courtesy of EverestLabs

Sims Municipal Recycling installed four EverestLabs robots in its New York City MRF and plans to add up to four more in 2023, bringing the facility into the AI age. 

JD Ambati, founder and CEO of EverestLabs, told Resource Recycling having a three-shift facility using EverestLabs’ robotic cells and RecycleOS AI software shows the tested durability and efficiency of the product. 

“Having Sims as a partner validates our thesis from the get-go, that what needs to happen for MRFs is you need to tie in easy-to-use, easy-to-deploy robotic solutions with the highest success rate of picking and a very high pick per minute, combined with actionable software that empowers the plant operator on a daily basis,” Ambati said. “We proved that with our other customers and Sims putting us in the Brooklyn plant is a stamp of approval, if you will, for us.” 

Sims Municipal Recycling’s (SMR) Sunset Park MRF processes more than 300,000 tons of glass, metal and plastic each year, handling 100% of the metal, glass and plastic and 50% of the paper collected by the New York City Department of Sanitation throughout the five boroughs. 

The MRF is widely cited as having the highest throughput of any commingled facility in North America. In December 2021, a 50.46% stake of SMR was sold to Closed Loop Partners and other investors by parent company Sims Limited.

Ambati said EverestLabs’ robots are the first in that facility. Four were installed in late spring 2022, and up to four more will be installed in the first quarter of 2023. 

“I want a MRF operator to understand today’s robots and AI are not some sort of a difficult, mythical, magical solution that is hard to comprehend, hard to use, hard to install and hard to maintain,” Ambati said. “It’s none of that. We made it really simple, we made it very actionable. It’s plug and play. We took the risk out of installing robots at scale.” 

EverestLabs did that by looking carefully at what had worked and what had not worked in the industry previously, Ambati added, and addressing any pain points one by one. He said the company also does some pre-work with the facilities planning to install the technology, so they are prepared to use the robots in the best capacity and in such a way that everything syncs up.

“The goal of our system solution is to enable the highest recovery in the MRF without increasing cost and to quantify what is happening in the MRF so that the MRF operator can make strategic decisions by looking at data on a daily or weekly basis,” Ambati added. 

RecycleOS can deliver 99% uptime, greater than 95% accuracy for identification and over 90% pick success rates for robotics cells. 

The Sunset Park MRF has two of the robotics cells installed on its high-speed inclined belt. Ambati said those are functioning as last-chance pickers for any valuable materials. The other two cells are doing quality control and removing contaminants on plastics lines. 

Those roles are what Sims chose to do with the first four units, but Ambati said the cells can do whatever the company chooses in a plant. 

“It’s a matter of what the plant operator needs and what the plant operator is trying to accomplish,” he said. 

Tom Ferretti, general manager at SMR, said in a statement that the technology is helping the company weather the current labor shortage and provide valuable data for the future. 

“These installations allow us and our partners to stay committed to sustainability while also saving us on costs and enable moving SMR’s key personnel into higher-priority positions across the plant,” Ferretti said. “It is a win for NYC recycling as we are recovering more, for our team members, and plant safety and efficiency.” 

SMR uses various robotics in other locations, as well, Ferretti added. Ambati said Sims and EverestLabs are having conversations about other potential locations for installs. 

“Sims has been a great partner,” Ambati said. “Sims has big ideas, we have big ideas, and we’re collaborating with them to solve critical issues.”

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