Rethinking the science of plastic recycling: UK startup lands £1.2m for turning trash into treasure using AI and robotics

15th December 2020 | Recycling

The recycling industry is plagued by various problems including dull, dirty and dangerous manual jobs. Also, numerous waste pickers are exposed to a multitude of occupational hazards, which have resulted in the industry facing an average of 50% labour turnover every 6 months. With China’s waste import ban, the UK has stopped exporting 50% of its waste, resulting in overcapacity. And here comes Rcycleye, an intelligent waste management startup to the rescue.

Based out of London, the company raised £1.2 million in seed funding, led by venture capital investors MMC Ventures and Playfair Capital, with participation from leading funds Atypical Ventures, Creator Fund, and eleos GmbH. Investor Henrik Wetter Sanchez of Playfair Capital commented, “As deep technology investors were impressed by Recyleye’s AI-led computer vision solutions to this growing global problem. Yet it is what Victor and Peter have achieved, working fast and lean, in just a year since inception that gives us confidence that they can truly transform the recycling industry with their technology.”

Plastic recycling

Further, the company also received grants from InnovateUK and the European Union to develop a computer vision system and affordable robotics, that will combine to create the world’s first fully automated, and deployable material recovery facility.

Founded by Peter Hedley, and Victor Dewulf in 2019, Recycleye’s vision system is capable of detecting and classifying all items in waste streams – broken down by material, object, and even brand removes the need for manual waste pickers. Notably, the company owns a library of 2 million trained waste images and counting, the largest data set in the world. Until now, Recycleye’s advanced team of research engineers have been working in stealth mode with nine computer scientists to build and deploy the vision system in under a year. The Imperial College London and the Delft University of Technology played a crucial role in building Recycleye’s technology.

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Rethinking the science of plastic recycling: UK startup lands £1.2M for turning trash into treasure using AI & robotics