Robotic sorting systems that have reached end of life are being processed by electronics recycling firm First America. | Courtesy of First America

Robotic sorting systems are increasingly making their way into MRFs and other recycling facilities, where they sort recyclables and even disassemble electronics. Now, they’re entering one electronics recycling company’s facilities as part of the end-of-life stream.

First America, a metals and electronics recycling firm with eight facilities across the U.S., recently announced it is processing robotic equipment at its recycling facilities. The company says it “will apply its full suite of capabilities to provide successful robotics recycling, including data destruction, asset management, parts harvesting, shredding and refining, resource recovery, transportation and resale.”

The Morris, Illinois-headquartered company is also planning to install robotic sorting capabilities at its facilities later this year. The company says it will use imaging technology to scan inbound materials, and an artificial intelligence system will identify materials based on the image. Robotic arms will then sort the materials accordingly.

The company is processing robotic systems retired from major warehouses and end-of-life machinery sourced from robotics repair companies.

Processing robotic equipment carries many of the same requirements as other electronics. First America says many robotic systems contain or work in conjunction with other devices that contain data, so data destruction is a key component of retiring these assets.

This marks the latest foray into new processing sectors for First America. Last year, the company began processing two fast-growing emerging device streams: Solar panels and electric vehicle batteries.

“As with the solar and battery technologies we started recycling last year, intelligent, efficient reuse and recycling of AI and robotics assets can help create a cleaner future,” company president Les Bury said in a statement.

In one difference from the typical device stream, robotic systems sourced from major warehouses can be “quite large,” the company noted, so it has dedicated the largest available spaces in its facilities to this processing work.

First America grew significantly in 2019, when a group of investors associated with the company purchased Metech Recycling. That brought Metech’s five e-scrap facilities under common ownership with First America.

The combined companies currently operate facilities in California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Texas and Utah.

A version of this story appeared in E-Scrap News on Feb. 29.

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