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Glass Recycling Gets a Boost with AI-Powered Sorting

Highly accurate sorting by color and type using AI that learns from experience is helping with a labor shortage and improving glass recycling rates.



An automatic sorting machine quickly categorizes recyclable glass bottles using the latest scanning technology. (Image courtesy of Seinan Corporation)

Read the full story on Japan 2 Earth - Glass Recycling Gets a Boost with AI-Powered Sorting

Glass bottles and jars, commonly used as food and beverage containers, are increasingly sorted using artificial intelligence (AI). This automation is expected to significantly decrease the sorting work done by hand to date and advance glass recycling rates.

A Solution to Labor Shortages

PFU, a leading manufacturer of scanners in the Ricoh Group, developed a cutting-edge AI tool. It employs image recognition technology that can identify the color and material of bottles moving on a conveyor belt with 99.8% accuracy. 

The system gives instructions to sorting robotic arms. These are capable of sorting up to 70 bottles per minute, separating bottles by color, such as brown glass or opaque. The robot can even recognize and separate out bottles that are not empty as well as plastic bottles that somehow end up in glass recycling. This AI can also relearn, enabling it to handle more complex separating as it gains experience.

According to the Glass Bottle 3R Promotion Association, when glass bottles of different colors or materials, such as heat-resistant or crystal glass, are mixed, problems arise. In the end, they cannot be recycled. Due to labor shortages in sorting, an estimated 300,000 tons of glass bottles are discarded annually.

Continue reading the full story on Japan 2 Earth to read more about growing demand for recycled glass.

And find more great articles on the environment and the challenges of achieving the SDGs on our affiliated website Japan 2 Earth (J2E), sparking a transition to a sustainable future.


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun