Do you know that each American produces nearly 4.51 pounds of trash daily and spends thousands of dollars every year just to pick up that trash? Alongside issues like a rapidly growing population and overconsumption, we also have to deal with overproduction instead of quality goods. This results in more waste, which is making our ecosystem more and more vulnerable to environmental threats.

The EPA estimates that nearly 70 percent of all waste is recyclable, while only 32.1 percent of the waste is actually recycled or composted. The United States has a $6.6 billion recycling industry, and a majority of people understand the importance of recycling in their everyday life. Still, the industry continues to decline due to the high costs associated with recycling. For this reason, it’s cheaper for companies to use “virgin” raw materials instead of recycled ones. However, there are still ways that companies can increase their ROI and make profits by starting recycling programs and managing them efficiently.

In this article, we will discuss how tech is making recycling ROI a reality by addressing recycling challenges with humans and some recycling tech that has revolutionized waste management

Major Challenges in the Recycling Industry 

Recycling may not sound like the most dangerous industry in the world. However, you may be surprised that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it has the sixth-highest fatality rate among all U.S. civilian jobs in 2019. Considering factors like workplace safety, lack of career trajectory, low wages, and monotony of working tasks, the recycling industry is also among the most challenging hiring markets. 

Alongside hiring challenges, accuracy and productivity issues are attributed to the human workforce. As the day progresses, and naturally, workers get tired, their sorting accuracy will likely decline and lead to contamination. On top of that, human workers can work only so many hours, and if an MRF wants to operate round the clock, they will have to work in shifts, inevitably leading to some downtime. 

How is technology helping the recycling industry?

Tech is making our world a better place by making life easier and helping us manage our lives more efficiently. Innovations in the waste management and recycling industry can take over manual tasks like sorting waste, increasing work efficiency, and reducing the time it takes humans to get the job done. Introducing recycling innovations such as on-site sorting robots can make the recycling industry not only more efficient but also safer for workers. 

While the exact workings may differ, most recycling innovations use a combination of robotics, AI/computer vision, and machine learning. Computer vision software is used to identify various materials, which are then sorted by using robots, and the data is monitored and stored for later. Most recycling utilizes a simple three-step process. 


Nearly all recycling tech solutions utilize a combination of computer vision and machine learning or AI to detect, classify, and track recyclables within the waste stream. Some of these systems even have up to 95% accuracy rates. 


After identifying various objects within the waste stream, the next step is picking up recyclables and sorting them into various categories. 


Since computer vision is used to identify various objects within the waste stream, it generates a considerable amount of data. This data can be stored ad used to make informed decisions and run quality waste audits. 

How Recycling Tech Can Improve Your Company’s ROI

For decades, the linear take-make-use-dispose model has been the standard approach toward production and consumption. However, the biggest issue with the linear model is that most materials get contaminated before they can be sorted and recycled or reused. Recent trends point towards a circular economy where waste management technology will be geared towards extracting raw materials from the current waste stream. 

Recycling tech can improve your company’s ROI in the following ways:

  • Help companies stay on top of local recycling rules and avoid the general public’s errors. 
  • Speeds up the waste management process by sorting more efficiently.
  • Sorting your waste stream at the time and point of disposal.
  • Analyzing the waste stream and finding opportunities to save money and resources. 
  • Generate waste audits to make informed decisions. 

Recycling Tech That Can Help Increase Your Recycling ROI

Waste Level Sensors

With the growing population, people are producing more and more waste every day. On the other hand, we cannot know when the trash bin will be full. Without adequate information about the trash bin’s fullness, it’s challenging to change the trash bags in time and maintain clean facilities. Waste-level sensors solve this issue by informing the users which trash bins are full and at which location. In high-traffic areas, this can give collectors a considerable advantage concerning the timing and bin fullness.

AI Recycling Robots

Let’s face it, humans are prone to making mistakes. In recycling, one of the most significant issues is that people don’t know what to recycle and end up wishcycling. When recyclables are not handled properly or mixed with other materials, they get contaminated. Many recycling facilities and smart recycling solutions use AI recycling robots that identify and separate recyclables from non-recyclables with more accuracy and at a faster pace.

E-Waste Kiosks

When it comes to e-waste recycling, the biggest questions are when, how, and where. Disposing of electronics can be tricky as many gadgets are made up of hazardous materials. E-waste kiosks address this issue by accepting electronic waste and reimbursing the users for their old devices. It uses smart technology to identify the value of the gadgets and pay the user accordingly. 

Waste Management Software and Dashboard

Alongside hybrid waste management solutions, there are also waste management software and dashboards that utilize analytics and reporting to help companies reduce waste and improve their recycling ROI. Based on its type, the waste management software market can be divided into waste tracking software, waste hauling software, route management software, recycling software, maintenance software, and more. These software and dashboards are used primarily to schedule waste storage, disposal, and transportation alongside implementing strategies to recycle or reuse materials. 

Smart Waste Bins 

The best way to deal with recycling issues and avoid contamination is by sorting waste at the time of disposal. Smart waste bins utilize computer vision, AI, and machine learning to automatically sort waste into the right bin as soon as someone throws something into the trash bin. Smart waste bins like TrashBot also have built-in screens and a content management system that can help educate users about recycling. Companies can also run automated waste audits and get the report within a few minutes.