Tetra Pak has joined forces with Australian Paper Recovery (APR) Kerbside to deploy an AI robot that can identify, and sort used Tetra Pak beverage cartons from kerbside recycling streams. The robot has been trained to recognise various types of beverage cartons, such as dairy milk, plant-based ‘milk’, juice, and stock. The partnership aims to improve the circularity of Tetra Pak's cartons by increasing the collection, sorting, and recycling.
The robot is located at the APR Kerbside Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in Truganina, Victoria, which is capable of processing up to 20,000 tonnes of materials per year. That’s roughly equivalent to the weight of 20,000 small cars worth of recycled materials that’s being diverted from landfill.
The project aims to automate the sorting process through innovative technology while recognising the value of all current workers and redeploying them to other positions within the business. “There will always be a role for human intelligence,” says Suzanne Toumbourou of Australian Council of Recycling. However, AI robots can sort smaller items compared to traditional processes and provide an efficient alternative.
“Better sorting is the key to better recycling,” says Vikas Ahuja, Sustainability Director at Tetra Pak.
Darren Thorpe, the Managing Director of APR Kerbside, stated that they are looking to scale up the project by opening two new facilities in Victoria within the next two years, with each featuring AI robotics.
Tetra Pak has also supported the opening of Australia's first beverage carton recycling facility in Warragamba, New South Wales, which recycles beverage cartons into a product called saveBOARD – a low-carbon alternative to building materials such as plasterboard. APR Kerbside plans to transport the cartons sorted by the AI robot to the NSW facility until the new saveBOARD plant in Victoria (jointly funded by the Victoria Government) begins operating in 2024.
This joint investment with APR holds great potential to reduce food waste, energy, and water consumption, while also enabling the repurposing of food and beverage packaging. Ultimately, this will support Australia’s recycling and sustainability goals for a low-carbon, circular economy.
Tetra Pak is a proud sponsor of Recycling Near You. Learn more about Tetra Pak and their efforts to boost recycling of beverage cartons.