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Recent news from suppliers to the waste industry.

January 31, 2021

McDonald’s sees supersized savings using dumpster cameras to monitor waste

When it comes to the most popular fast-food restaurants, there’s McDonald’s and then there’s everybody else.

According to data from QSR magazine, McDonald’s U.S. stores accounted for $40.41 billion in sales in 2019. The next highest were Starbucks ($21.55 billion), Chick-fil-A ($11 billion), Taco Bell ($11 billion) and Burger King ($10.3 billion).

With almost double the sales of the next biggest player in the market, it’s easy to see why the burger chain heavyweight recently sought out a way to more effectively manage its waste.

Specifically, McDonald’s began heavily investing in Compology’s dumpster monitoring cameras and sensors at locations across the country—mostly within the last year—to better track its waste and recycling generation.

Compology, which is a San Francisco-based startup that has been manufacturing dumpster-mounted cameras and sensors since 2013, allows operators to monitor the contents of their waste containers to determine fullness, required pickup intervals, and contamination. Through these AI-powered devices, customers can be alerted via message when the technology detects that foreign materials have been placed where they don’t belong, such as in the case of trash bags being thrown into a dumpster dedicated to cardboard recycling. These devices also allow generators to only schedule waste pickups when their containers have reached capacity, reducing unnecessary trips (and costs) from waste haulers.

According to Compology founder and CEO Jason Gates, McDonald’s has locations throughout the U.S. using its services, estimating that roughly 10 percent of all locations currently feature the company’s monitoring devices.

In a recent interview with CNN, Gates discussed a specific example of how the company’s cameras were leveraged at one Las Vegas-area McDonald’s location to notify workers when the wrong materials were placed into a recycling container.

“Once we saw the bags of trash go inside the cardboard containers, we sent a notification to the people on-site via text message, letting them know that they should remove it before the truck comes the next morning and telling them that putting trash in the recycling container is a form of contamination, which they should not do in the future,” he said.

Because of this functionality, Gates says Compology devices can reduce contamination in the recycling stream by as much as 80 percent.

Brent Bohn, who owns dozens of McDonald’s restaurants throughout Las Vegas and Phoenix, told CNN that the company’s use of Compology devices has been instrumental in keeping his locations’ recycling dumpsters free of waste.

“The cameras have really streamlined that for us and provided accountability for us, but also for our suppliers and the haulers that we work with,” Bohn said.

In total, Gates says Compology’s cameras have recorded more than 80 million images from the 162,000 cameras it has installed to date. Because these cameras get better at detecting what is, and isn’t, contamination the more data they process, users benefit from these systems continuously getting smarter.

“The more images we get of the inside of dumpsters, the more accurate we can be,” Gates said.

Gates says that its service costs between $10 and $20 per month per dumpster, but that it generally saves companies thousands of dollars per dumpster per year on waste hauling costs by reducing unnecessary waste pickups and fines from contaminated loads.

Specifically pertaining to McDonald’s, Gates says the company is seeing about 14 times the ROI of the technology due to these savings.

With the potential for such ROI, and the continued push for more sustainability-focused operations among major businesses, Gates says he projects adoption of the company’s waste solutions to become accelerated in the year ahead. The company’s customer base currently includes Fortune 1,000 companies such as ADT Security, Nordstrom and Capital One.

Michigan county commissions Machinex MRF

Machinex has announced the November 2020 commissioning of a new residential and commercial single-stream material recovery facility (MRF) in Marquette County, Michigan, that was designed to address the challenges of rural recycling. The Plessisville, Quebec-based systems integrator says the project is the result of cooperation among Machinex, Bradley Austin from the Marquette County Solid Waste Authority and Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The county received a $3 million interest-free loan from New York-based Closed Loop Fund and an $800,000 grant from Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) to build the $6.3 million facility, which was part of the funding the state allocated to recycling infrastructure in 2018.

“Simply, we saw an opportunity to improve recycling not only in Marquette County but the Upper Peninsula as a whole,” says Brad Austin, director of operations at Marquette County Solid Waste Management Authority, of the new MRF. “The challenges of rural area recycling needed to be addressed in a more regional frame of mind. ... This facility is designed to process recyclables from the entire region, and the hope is that with this new infrastructure and solid education in place, participation in recycling will increase across the entire territory.”

This MRF is highly automated, which, Machinex says, is an asset for the county’s municipalities because they lack laborers to staff the facility. With the capacity to sort 10,000 to 15,000 tons per year, the system is equipped with a back-scraping drum to ensure input material is at a consistent depth, a Mach OCC screen for cardboard sorting, a fines screen to separate glass, a Mach ballistic screen to separate containers from glass and paper, a magnet to sort ferrous metals and a Machinex two-ram baler.

Shred-Tech announces dealer agreement with Pronar

Shred-Tech, Ontario, has announced its exclusive North American strategic dealer agreement with Pronar, a recycling machinery manufacturer based out of Narew, Poland.

Shred-Tech is now the exclusive distributor for Pronar’s single- and double-shaft slow-speed primary shredders.

Pronar says the company has grown exponentially and consistently over the last 30 years, from a difficult economic downturn in the ‘80s to a leader in recycling, agricultural and municipal machinery manufacturing on a global scale. With more than 2,200 employees and seven factories and facilities totaling 574,000 square feet, Pronar sells more than 5,500 machines annually, making the company among the top-selling brands in Poland, with greater than 50 percent market share.

The company also is known for manufacturing and supplying pneumatic and hydraulic components for trailer axles and steel side wall profiles and for producing 60,000-wheel rims every month that are distributed globally.

W.M. Kelley acquires Lauyans & Co.

W. M. Kelley Co. Inc., New Albany, Indiana, has acquired Louisville, Kentucky, based Lauyans & Co. Inc.

Lauyans & Co., established in 1986, is an engineering and manufacturing company providing conveyor systems and permanent magnet solutions, while W.M. Kelley has more than 50 years of experience designing and manufacturing material handling equipment, custom metal fabrication components and complete assemblies.

According to a news release from W.M. Kelley, Lauyans & Co. will continue to provide engineered products, overhead conveyor and permanent magnet solutions while concentrating on customer satisfaction. Through the acquisition, W.M. Kelley says it will be better equipped to serve its customers’ design and fabrication needs.

Employees of Lauyans & Co. who are joining the W. M. Kelley family will share in its employee ownership and will continue to operate out of the acquired facility in Louisville.

ZenRobotics discusses how robots continue to improve C&D recycling

ZenRobotics, Helsinki, announced several high-profile robotic sorting installations in European C&D facilities late in 2020. These installations, at plants operated by Finland-based Remeo and Switzerland-based Eberhard Group, respectively, will be operational in 2021.

Juha Mieskonen, head of sales for ZenRobotics, discussed how the company is working to advance robotic sorting in C&D applications both overseas and in North America, and detailed how these technologies are advancing to allow for greater efficiencies and more profitability for operators.

Waste Today (WT): Can you discuss how ZenRobotics robots are being deployed at Remeo and Eberhard Group’s facilities?

Juha Mieskonen (JM): Both Remeo and Eberhard are longstanding customers of ours and industry frontrunners in using AI-powered waste sorting robots. We are thrilled to be part of these two very different cutting-edge projects.

Remeo’s new materials recovery facility [capable of processing] 45 tons per hour integrates two different processing lines for waste fractions, combining both commercial and industrial waste (C&I) and construction and demolition waste (C&D). The advanced robotic system by ZenRobotics features 12 robotic arms and is based on positive sorting. Smart robots can be trained to pick an unlimited number of fraction models, which allows the recovery of double-digit numbers of high-value fractions such as different grades of wood, metal, concrete and plastic from the belt on the same go.

Eberhard’s new recycling plant [capable of processing] 200 tons per hour will convert mixed construction waste into valuable secondary raw material. Our robotic system includes two parallel lines with multiple robots and is based on negative sorting. The robots remove impurities from the waste stream and leave valuable materials on the belt. These high-quality materials are then converted into new building materials at the same plant.

WT: Europe has a much stronger emphasis on landfill diversion than in the U.S. How do you see the use of robotics advancing in North American C&D applications?

JM: Yes, Europe has a strong emphasis on landfill diversion and also on material recycling as opposed to incineration. The objective is a circular economy, and regulation is a big driver. AI-based robots help our customers capture valuable clean materials from the waste stream and achieve desired recycling rates in an accurate, efficient and affordable way.

In North America, we see a big emphasis on market-based drivers such as increased profitability and improved cost-efficiency resulting from the use of robotics. Manual sorting is common, so occupational health and safety is also a significant concern, further heightened by COVID-19. Robots have the benefit of reducing human exposure and creating a safer environment for people.

We see great prospects in the North American markets, and we’re excited to partner with our local customers to help capture valuable materials in a profitable and safe way with AI-powered robots.

WT: Are there certain facilities where robotics make more economical sense? What considerations go into calculating a ROI for this technology?

JM: Robots enable uninterrupted sorting and up to 24/7 operations, increasing capital efficiency and capturing more tons per day. ROI for the technology becomes [expedited] the more hours the robots are able pick. However, significant efficiency gains can already be achieved in single-shift operations. Furthermore, the technology allows for decentralized operations, reducing transport costs and also lowering associated emissions.

WT: How has robots’ capacity for handling C&D improved over the last couple of years?

JM: Robots are becoming faster, more accurate and able to lift heavier objects. The robots also come with multiple arms, further increasing hourly capacity. Durability improvements have significantly increased overall equipment efficiency, so actual yearly processing time and capacity have also increased.

WT: What about maintenance—what should recyclers know about upkeep and downtime?

JM: Maintenance and cleaning are needed just like for any industrial machine. Our robots are low maintenance, requiring some daily/weekly cleaning and monthly maintenance. When done correctly, the performance and durability of the robot increases.

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