Recycling: An Opaque Business – Robohub


The Recycling Business in america is a for-profit business. They revenue from taking recyclable materials, refining it, and reselling it to firms at a less expensive value than producing the fabric from scratch.

Provide and Demand in Recycling

If you happen to take a look at the demand aspect of the recycling business, an array of multi-billion greenback firms like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are incentivized to purchase recycled items and scale back their supplies prices.

On the availability aspect, ~300 million tons of trash are generated yearly in america. 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 business can’t deal with this quantity of trash, and what Glacier is doing to deal with 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 price 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 Laptop 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 summary of the recycling business.

Areeb Malik: Yeah, certain. I feel the recycling and the waste business is a kind of spots that we as customers, you realize, 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 massive business.

There are loads of gamers concerned and there’s some huge cash that sort of flows by way of 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 business. and the explanation for that’s cuz it’s loads of work behind the scenes. usually talking, I’ll sort of run by way of it at a excessive stage.

_*How does recycling work? *_

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

A truck comes over. These vans are often known as _*haulers*_ within the business. 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 identify Merf.

Um, that MRF’s job is to type. So you place a bunch of stuff into the bin loads of it wasn’t recyclable as a result of as a client, you may not know what’s recyclable or isn’t. after which inside 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 might want to type the bottles aside from the cans, aside from the cardboard. Et cetera.

Um, this massive sorting problem is sort of laborious 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 realize, 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 explanation that is that is essential is as a result of that aluminum can and that plastic bottle, there’s loads of vitality, loads 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 could be doing. And so that you truly get actually massive 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 footwear 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 general price 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 possibly can 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 transport and, and every little thing that’s concerned.

The, you realize, Distillation of their uncooked ore into precise aluminum, every little thing 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 slightly bit. and so it’s truly quite a bit cheaper as a result of that recycler didn’t spend as a lot time or effort sort 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 provide than a virgin can. I can’t let you know precisely what which means financially, however you possibly can, you possibly can sort 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 realize, you talked about aluminum, so there are undoubtedly sure supplies which might be extra precious to the companies who’re gonna be very incentivized at this level to truly put money into recycled supplies than different ones. What can be the hierarchy of the very precious recyclable elements after which those that perhaps we recycle, however it’s not as clear minimize that there’s a monetary motive to take action?

Areeb Malik: Yeah, that’s a extremely good query. And it’s, it’s not a simple one. Sadly, the simple hierarchy I can provide you proper now’s that metals are Supreme. Metals are nice as a result of, with aluminum or metal, they’re what we name infinitely recyclable. Proper? You possibly can 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 realize, we like to consider 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. once you sometimes recycle plastic, you don’t truly come again precisely the place you begin, you are likely to what we name a down cycle.

And that’s why you see loads of firms promoting shirts and footwear and luggage that have been as soon as constructed 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 once you recycle that bag, proper, is there a marketplace for that?

So that is what we name down biking. We sort 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 concentrate on the hierarchy of commodities yeah, like steel’s supreme, Plastics are actually precious as a result of there’s loads 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 precious as nicely. Newspaper, workplace prints, and stuff like that begins to get much less precious.* Glass is a extremely attention-grabbing 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 sort of blended. loads of services don’t take care of glass. Quite a lot of them do it sort of is determined by how shut their purchaser is.

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

Areeb Malik: Yeah. For essentially 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. If you happen to soften it down, it may well sort 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 business 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 concerning the recyclability and, and the inexperienced thumb side, otherwise you, you would possibly and both manner, you’ve gotten this sort of monetary incentive, proper?

You say I need to produce a bunch of cans. I’m truly prepared to pay 2 cents further per can to be inexperienced and sustainable cuz that’s in our ESG tips firm, no matter. both manner, what you’re taking a look at is:

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

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

So in case you are 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 larger costs.

Um, so if you happen to’re Coke and also you’re taking a look at these two choices, you’re gonna go along with no matter is cheaper minus that fudge issue to your ESG sort of motivation.

Um, However, you realize, 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 impulsively… 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 sort of what the target of the recycling business 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 realize, making an attempt to do good by the planet or not? The financially good 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 gotten any thought what proportion of the particular items, the cans which might be being produced, are being recycled?

Areeb Malik: Yeah. it’s an amazing 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 sort of unearth over the course of this dialog is there’s not loads of good knowledge on this business. it may not shock you, however once you throw your bottle into the recycling, then no one’s actually monitoring that bottle at that time.

Um, and so there’s some data on the market, however it’s not very sturdy. what I can let you know is that inside 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 may 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 inside 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’s not being captured. and* that’s clearly a giant downside,* proper? And that’s gonna come to:

A. Shoppers, not recycling correctly.

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

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

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

Um, how a lot of, you realize, I’m certain 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 perhaps 90% and perhaps threw in a single factor that they’re sort 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 really adjustments this?

Areeb Malik: Yeah. I might, I might say it’s it, it’s simple 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 business for 3 years now and I nonetheless have bother. With like a yogurt container. I’m like, ah, like which bin does this go in? and it’s, it’s actually laborious to inform and it, the issue is like, it varies primarily based 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 sort 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 downside to unravel. No marvel they will’t determine it out.

Um, I feel the largest wrongdoer proper now’s the truth that producers produce with out desirous about the top of lifetime of their product. So loads 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 mix for example of a number of supplies. an amazing 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 fabricated from a number of layers of various commodities. So you bought paper, plastic, aluminum, all within the linings, and it does an amazing 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 a superb finish of life, in case you are some juice producer and also you need to make it possible for your juice carton does have a superb 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 with the ability to produce quite a bit, and do it at an affordable value. And they also go along with no matter makes essentially the most sense. once more, the dream of recycling is can we make what makes essentially the most sense of commodity that has good circularity?

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

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

And you realize, one, one factor that you just additionally talked about earlier, there’s like these completely different classes that you would be able to take your recycled trash and put it into metals, plastics, et cetera. However in lots of people’s properties, all you’ve gotten is a single blue recycling bin that you just throw every little thing into. precisely.

Abate: Yeah. So, after which is that this, is that this part of the difficulty? Is that this a authorities factor the place they’re not sending out the suitable bins to everyone’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 laborious to get good knowledge on what would work right here. So I’ll offer you a pair examples. Quite a lot of facil.., loads of, loads 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 manner they divide that’s containers. That’s gonna be your glass, plastic, cans, metal, no matter. After which paper every little thing 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, *customers like didn’t have the psychological vitality to do that.*

They usually discovered that if we get everyone to dump every little thing into one bin, we’ll not less than 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 business that didn’t actually have the, the power to deal with this a lot sort of inbound.

However what they ended up with is one other downside the place now every little thing’s blended collectively. the, the opposite factor to consider is like what, what if each client was liable for like dividing every little thing 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 mentioned earlier than, I nonetheless have bother splitting a factor into the rights, the suitable location, even with simply two bins. there are communities, very small communities that do that. There’s an amazing one that you would be able to 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 slightly constructing.

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

Abate: An attention-grabbing factor about america, the size of rubbish is simply considerably larger than loads of different international locations. partially as a result of we’re producing extra rubbish per individual and in addition partially is a really massive 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 slightly bit skewed in our ratios there.

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

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

If you happen to simply sort of take that into, you realize, the inhabitants within the US, which I feel got here out to 330 million in 2021, we’re taking a look at about for a family of 4. you’re taking a look at about one ton of recyclables, not recycled yearly. So each single home, a automobile’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 taking a look at 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 quite a bit that you may be recapturing and reselling.

Areeb Malik: Yeah, undoubtedly. It’s quite a bit to be recapturing. It’s quite a bit to consider, like, *why can we devour a lot?* how are these different international locations, these different folks around the globe getting by, with out doing it? lot of, lot of questions that I increase and hopefully, you realize, 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 certainly one of it’s getting recovered.

Abate: A sure portion of that may be companies and different massive industries which might 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 house. Generally you go to Starbucks and also you toss it into the road, trash cans, all, all that stuff sort 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 downside?

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

And the explanation for that is twofold. One is with 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 will get the price of the recycle can down. Then you definitely’re gonna be extra incentivized as Coke to buy recycled cans.

And one of many massive drivers of price goes to be the sortation piece. I’ll word that one other massive driver of price, which we must always not ignore proper now’s freight. The transport of stuff from one place to the opposite, simply driving tons and tons of trash round clearly prices quite a bit. But when we’re taking a look at that sorting downside, it’s a massive downside proper now.

And it’s an issue that might use loads 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 certainly one of these MRFs, you’re gonna see primarily two sorts of sorting processes. One, I like to think about high-quantity, low-quality sortation.

So that they use machines utilizing spinning discs or magnets or one thing sort of heavy steel, old fashioned know-how that does a extremely good job processing loads of stuff. and it may well type, for example, massive items of cardboard aside from small plastic bottles. [00:20:00] however I mentioned 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 loads of stuff that shouldn’t have been there. For example, if you happen to’re making an attempt to type paper aside from every little thing else, utilizing a density sorter, you’re gonna find yourself with loads of plastic movies, and plastic luggage within the paper stream. So you’ve gotten this high quality that’s, that’s an issue.

Um, and related on the draw back on the flip aspect you’ve gotten,

Abate: That is with none extra 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 sort of blind because it stands right this moment.

After which on the flip aspect, there are the high-quality, low-quantity sorting methods. What that method is is, is folks whose job is to face above conveyor belts and type by way of what these machines didn’t get proper. and in addition to type by way of stuff, to forestall the machines from getting damage within the first place. You’ve got lots of people inside these services doing, and, and I feel they do an amazing job, proper?

Like an individual’s eyes and an individual’s arms are improbable. when it comes to doing any such activity, however there’s solely a lot a, an individual can do. the disadvantage there, in fact, 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 choice to tug on.

Uh, the opposite tough factor about that’s that persons are actually laborious to rent for these, these roles. as you may think, it’s not essentially a really fascinating job. we’ve spoken to a number of services throughout the nation and all of them echo the identical grievance. It’s similar to yeah my persons are like, it’s actually laborious 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 accessible within the final two years. The most individuals they’d within the facility on a given day was fourteen. So that you’re taking a look at loads of services that similar to can’t presumably fill all of the spots they want.

And since you’ve gotten 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 extra sorting. The top output that they produce is decrease high quality.

Um, and so sort of every little thing is degraded by this, this sorting downside 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 laptop imaginative and prescient to look down at a conveyor belt inside certainly one of these services and determine each single factor that’s coming down that belt**.*

Um, we will classify. Mainly, you realize, recyclers consider commodities in a really particular manner. 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 could be. we will use laptop imaginative and prescient to do this. After which we move that data to a robotic sorting system that may then separate issues on a belt, nevertheless, it wants.

Um, and so it’s very dynamic. It’s very adaptable. It’s very simple to put in inside these services. and the thought is mainly right here’s like a, an choice that you just as a facility can use. If you happen to’re, if you happen to can’t even rent these roles, right here’s a manner that you would be able to 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 have been to assist us visualize what this technique appears like, is it a conveyor belt with a digital camera on prime and two robotic arms which might be, you realize, like what precisely does it appear to be?

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

They do some form of sorting loads of loud noise. every little thing’s sort of transferring in all places directly. Very chaotic. And I feel very sometimes you don’t have loads 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 tools through which is among the methods of working in these services.

Proper. You possibly can’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, “Effectively, how am I gonna match that in?”

So think about that area, you’ve gotten some conveyor belt someplace that’s transferring stuff alongside. what we do is we mainly 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 prime of your conveyor belt. there’s a digital camera that sits slightly bit upstream of the robots and appears instantly down at it. Makes use of laptop imaginative and prescient to, like I mentioned, classify every little thing coming by way of and the robotic itself.

Uh, yeah, you truly, you bought the quantity, proper. We do use two arms. however the thought is mainly a sequence of robotic arms that may mainly reply to laptop imaginative and prescient. decide up gadgets off the conveyor belt. Transfer ’em to some location, whether or not that’s a bin that they’re amassing 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 realize, and simply desirous about this from a robotics standpoint, there are undoubtedly loads of challenges with trash. they’re random sizes and shapes and perhaps slightly bit moist, probably, like who is aware of? Proper. so how, how can you overcome the problem of with the ability to decide 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 among the hardest issues that we’ve 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 gotten this actually laborious problem. The roboticists on right here will perceive, decide and place is among the holy grail challenges of robotics right this moment.

Um, and there are PhD applications devoted to designing a gripper that may do in addition to the human hand. our problem in fact, 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 realize, robotic arm that may solely have you learnt, three gadgets a minute, or, you realize, 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 undoubtedly like a, some extent of focus for our firm. And one of many issues that our engineers are working actually laborious on desirous about, proper? Like how do you design finish effectors that steadiness excessive throughputs with the flexibility to efficiently decide as a lot as doable?

And we’ve a metric internally that we name our decide 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 perfect robots, aren’t hitting one hundred percent decide fee for gadgets. And that’s one thing that we’ve 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 way of. You possibly can most likely decide it up the primary time, however that’s going to clog up loads of your elements and that makes the reliability of your machine tougher. So how do you decide an merchandise that’s soiled with out inflicting problem to your machine, or somewhat, how do you design a machine?

That’s simple to scrub and simple to replace elements when it will get too soiled. that may sense when it’s not selecting nicely and alert the upkeep crew. Hey, like, are you able to come clear my, you realize, 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 one’s ever considered these issues within the context of, of trash. And so the issues that we get to unravel you realize, 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 decide up and drop. You’re actually, you’re actually maximizing for getting good ROI and with 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 perhaps it’s not the top of the world as a result of an individual may additionally simply miss one thing or, worse off, not even be working as a result of it’s 6:00 PM

Areeb Malik: Undoubtedly, And that’s one of many good issues about being in our area. , I take into consideration my colleagues within the self-driving automobile 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’t fail.

Um, and also you spend loads of efforts sort of engaged on the 0.99999. Proper. whereas for us, like, yeah, it’s tremendous. 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 deal with 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 tackle 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 could be.

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

Areeb Malik: Yeah, it’s, it’s a superb query. I feel usually we prefer 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 business. [00:30:00] loads 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 business and I’m gonna connect some, you realize, primary processing software program, however every little thing else sort of goes pre-written. the issue with that’s that these off the shelf, robots, these sort of customized generic, or sorry, these generic robots they have a tendency to not hit the ROI marks that these services are in search of.

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 obtained actually early on and we proceed to get as sure, like that’s, that could be a large win for them. Cuz it’s easier.

It’s simpler to take care of. It’s simpler to put in all of these things on the subject of the software program. That additionally means we’ve to write down it ourselves. you are able to do some stuff off the shelf. however sometimes talking like. If you happen to, if you wish to customise it and make it very particular to a recycling facility.

Yeah. It does contain loads of customized software program to be written as nicely. it’s sort of enjoyable. you get to unravel challenges which might be actually distinctive. Like I mentioned, lots of people have solved issues for decide and place, however not lots of people have thought concerning the, the precise points that come contained in the recycling area.

Like we have 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 thought is that if we will customise the machine. we will construct a machine that these services are literally gonna profit from. That’s finally our objective 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 crew 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 fairly 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 right this 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’ve a fairly broad spectrum. We’re a small firm. So everybody will get sort of like stretch their wings and sort of discover into like completely different realms. however yeah, I might say on the entire we’re, we’re sort of divided alongside the, the software program {hardware} line, like about 50%.

Abate: Yeah. Yeah. And so I additionally know your crew simply very not too long ago got here out of stealth mode and also you’re undoubtedly nonetheless very a lot a startup. Have you ever guys already began or planning on quickly doing a pilot at a sorting facility and with the ability to check it out in actual time.

Areeb Malik: Yeah. So I can’t identify too many names, however we’ve performed two pilots already and we’ve a 3rd one which’s ongoing at the moment. and so we’ve 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 realize, nanny cams and be like, oh appear to be there’s our robots sorting by way of recyclables.

How cool. and so, yeah, we, we, we’ve a pair pilots sort of underway we’re at some extent as an organization the place the target proper now’s mainly refine this machine. So it’s. It’s it’s good. Proper. We, we all know that these clients, like, they don’t perceive why constructing these items is difficult. They simply need 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 then you definitely by no means give it some thought once more. And we wanna get to that time. In order that’s the place loads of the main target is true now.

Um, when it comes to, when it comes to what we’re growing on the engineering aspect.

Abate: So that you’ve now you’ve put in this technique in a pair completely 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 arms 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 in fact they’re going to examine this to an individual and robots and persons are they’re, you realize, analogs, however they function very otherwise from one another. as I sort of talked about earlier, like an individual. They’re our arms 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 have the ability to do this. A minimum of not, not in like the subsequent 10 years. Proper? That’s not one thing we’re making an attempt to realize. 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 to date, I might say. These set up places, they’re wildly completely different, proper? You possibly can’t simply make one robotic that does one factor. and put it right into a, performed a dozen completely different places, cuz every set up… the scale of the belt, the, the quantity of density on the belt, the commodities you’re selecting, the place are you taking it to?

All these items, adjustments, set up to put in. and so one of many, the good 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 appears similar to that {hardware}, however these robots are literally very completely different on the within due to how they’re configured due to how they assume primarily based on the stuff that’s coming down the road.

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

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

Areeb Malik: Yeah, there are a number of which might be perhaps a few years older than us at this level. If you happen to take a look at the market as an entire, it’s, it’s undoubtedly very nascent. Quite a lot of the services we speak to have heard about these different recyclable sorry, these recycling robots. and loads 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 sort of the market as an entire. Most services have heard about them, however haven’t put in our robots. if you happen to look sort of past the robots of like, what else is gonna occur to those services? You step inside certainly one of these services and also you’re gonna be fast to see like, oh, there are like 15 optimizations we may do.

Um, and so, you realize, robots first you realize, there’s comp opponents, however there’s loads 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 business 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 business and repair the world?

Is, is the top?? That’s subsequent.

what are we doing? So I sort of talked about we’ve these two prototypes the target technically is to get the machines, to be pretty much as good as doable. after which begin getting them into extra you realize, services throughout the nation at that time, proper? Like as soon as we get this machine down and we will truly similar 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 business, with the know-how we’ve with the folks we’ve on our crew? How else can we positively influence how we as a society deal with our waste?

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

Um, however as I discussed earlier than, this business is admittedly massive and it may undoubtedly use slightly bit of affection from the tech business. So we’re hoping to sort of get the robotic up and working. Let that sort of be an arm of the enterprise after which deal with what comes subsequent.

How can we subsequent enhance our you realize, means 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 business align.

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

Areeb Malik: Yeah. So we’re, we’re engaged on our search engine optimisation, 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 realize, posting on recurrently with updates. we even have an internet site which is

Um, and so you possibly can go over there to take a look at slightly demo of the machine and sort of see what it appears like, cuz I can’t clarify it nicely sufficient with my phrases. however you realize, check out what it appears 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 mentioned, it’s, it’s very thrilling to be sharing this data with folks as a result of I feel everybody must know slightly bit extra about how recycling works.


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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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