News in brief | CIWM Business Partner update

News:

UK-based AI waste analytics platform Greyparrot has raised $11 million (£8,807,040) in a Series A funding round, which they say is to tackle the “data drought” in the waste industry and increase recycling rates and introduce accountability to the waste value chain globally.

Greyparrot says that it will use the funding to digitise the $1.6 trillion global waste management industry and power the circular economy.

The Greyparrot AI-powered computer vision system was created in 2019 and has analysed over ten billion packaging items in sorting plants. Greyparrot says it aims to increase recycling rates and introduce accountability to the waste value chain.

Funding is led by Una Terra, with participation from Closed Loop Partners, Unreasonable Collective, and SpeedInvest.

Greyparrot says the investment will be used to accelerate its vision to grow the company’s global footprint and expand to new waste types in heavily polluting industries such as construction and demolition.

Greyparrot is an AI start-up using computer vision technology to monitor, analyse and sort tonnes of waste at scale.

We are putting a monetary value on waste – something that is perceived to have a negative value.

Greyparrot says that there is currently limited data on the 2.1 billion tonnes of waste produced each year, which means there has been no systematic transparency on its composition or accountability for how waste is managed.

It says the investment comes as mounting regulation fuelled by consumer demand continues to put pressure on the  global waste management industry to clean up the planet.

The AI waste analytics platform says its customers cover 60% of the waste management market, including industry leaders such as Suez, Biffa, and Veolia.

Suppliers of recycling hardware have integrated the Greyparrot AI model into their sorting machinery and robots, which Greyparrot says will enable the industry to elevate the performance of its sorting infrastructure with AI intelligence.

Co-founder and CEO of Greyparrot, Mikela Druckman, said: “Waste has been recognised as the fourth biggest contributor to climate change, yet the data surrounding it has been sparse at best. This is a huge missed opportunity.

“We are putting a monetary value on waste – something that is perceived to have a negative value. Providing access to granular waste data can also have a big impact at a macro level, helping to shape government policies around recycling and influencing the decisions producers make about their packaging.”

 

Updates:

By Fireward

The very real risk of fires within the recycling sector is obvious but the UK’s leading manufacturer of waste balers and recycling equipment, Presona, have recognised a worrying increase in reports of fires breaking out within the recycling industry.

Richard Portas of Presona explains, “With an increasing number of Lithium-ion batteries found in household items, more and more are inevitably finding their way through the recycling process. It’s not surprising the number of fires within the recycling industry and waste sites is increasing.”

According to a 2021 report by Eunomia Research and Consulting and the Environmental Services Association (ESA), Lithium-ion batteries are responsible for around 48% of all waste fires that occur in the UK each year, this costs the UK economy a whopping £158 million annually.

The report details that an estimated 201 waste fires caused by Lithium-ion batteries occur every year in the UK, which pose potentially disastrous consequences to human life, businesses and the environment. It’s this increasing statistic that encouraged Presona to think about fire suppression.

Unquestionably it is the joint responsibility of individuals and the waste management sites to help reduce the likelihood and frequency of fires. To help reduce the potential impact on safety, health, the environment, property and business, Presona were keen to help reduce this risk from the minute they supply and install one of their machines on site.

“We thought there must be something we can do to help reduce this number and prevent such fires, so we began looking at fire suppression”, explains Richard.

“We looked around and looked extensively into options on the market, which is where we came across Fireward. Talking to the team at Fireward, their experience and knowledge really stood out. They walked us through what they could provide and how they can provide fire suppression made specifically for our machines. Their reputation within the industry was strong and by this point we knew we had found the solution we were looking for.”

As the UK’s leading suppliers of baling and conveyor equipment, Presona began a collaboration with Fireward to supply reliable and effective automatic fire suppression systems alongside their recycling equipment. Presona brand their offering Supressa™.

“The automatic fire suppression has been very well received by our customers, some of which are big names within the industry such as Tesco and ASDA. Their conveyors and systems run for long periods and the environments in which our machines operate provide the perfect environment for fires to start. It’s fantastic to see such companies taking steps to reduce the risk of fire within their plants. There is a lot of interest around the systems and the benefits they bring”, says Richard.

Fireward are the UK’s leading fire suppression provider, the world’s first to be certified to the global fire suppression standard P Mark 199. Fireward provide systems for most applications with several agent options and are dedicated to designing and installing only the best and most reliable fire suppression systems, detecting fires immediately and extinguishing them before they can start to cause damage.

Headquartered in Chelmsford, the company operates across the UK working closely with both OEMs and dealers alike offering a whole range of systems for every sector.

Offering companies peace of mind, Mark Scutt, Fireward Sales Director adds, “The beauty of our systems is that they are on all of the time and without any need for any power, it’s a 24/7 safe pair of hands for anybody that has a system fixed to an asset and some of these assets cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

It is likely that the risk of and the number of fires within waste recycling plants will continue to increase, given the increasing use of Lithium-ion batteries. That being said, Presona and Fireward are proud to offer a solution to their customers to aid in the quest of reducing the impact and risk of fires.

Richard explains, “Fire suppression is a small price to pay to save lives and businesses. It offers peace of mind and is a key safety feature that is proven to protect individuals from injury or death and businesses from closure and loss.”

 

plastic packaging

Re-Gen’s Managing Director and Committee Member on Defra’s Advisory Committee on Packaging Joseph Doherty, welcomes the consultation on the Packaging Recovery Note (PRN).

All English exporters will have to register and get an environmental permit with the technical competence requirements under the carrier/broker/dealer proposals, but only exporters wanting to issue PERNs will need to be accredited and be subject to the revised conditions on monthly reporting and the reporting of PRN/PERN revenue.

The primary purpose of the Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) should be to provide evidence of recycling and monitor progress towards meeting targets. But the PRN is also designed as a funding mechanism to encourage higher recycling levels when there is a risk of the targets not being met.

Changes are needed to increase transparency so that everyone involved in the industry knows what PRN revenue is being raised and what it is used for.

However, changes are needed to increase transparency so that everyone involved in the industry knows what PRN revenue is being raised and what it is used for. Improved traceability is a priority for the system. It builds confidence. The current reporting system makes target progress prediction extremely difficult.

The verification of quality and quantity of recycling levels is becoming increasingly important and the consultation proposes significant steps to improve these. Submission of sampling and inspection reports will deliver much-needed real-time transparency to the Agencies.

Monthly recycling data and PRN revenue reporting, tougher conditions of accreditation and formalised competence requirements will help to give the market confidence that material is properly recycled and that PRN prices are justified.

This should raise standards within the recycling industry and drive out PRN system abuse but it will inevitably mean that some traders will leave the industry which could then lead to a more expensive PRN market.

An integrated system

The Material Recycling Facility (MRF) Code of Practice may be used as a framework to design the sampling programme. The waste shipment regulations require exporters to meet international requirements for quality. The revised PRN system will be making this more formal and transparent than the current system.

My main hope is that the new system works in conjunction with waste export controls and that both systems become more integrated for waste companies. Exports are vital for our economy and tracking recycling material will become increasingly available through the development of technology.

Every MRF like the one operated by Re-Gen will see more regulations and an extension of sampling. We already follow the MRF Code of Practice but other increases in bureaucracy may mean that up to three additional quality assurance staff will be needed by MRFs to oversee the new PRN process and ensure that the evidence on exports is in order.

We would like to see the Environment Agencies across the UK work together to set up a national register with all export destinations, to prevent industry replicating details for each destination and enable the market to work more freely.

Compliance Fee

The consultation mentions a compliance fee approach which is intended to reduce PRN price volatility, but I believe will be quite damaging to market forces.

Government needs to ensure that the compliance fee doesn’t undermine the market and remove the incentives needed to increase recycling. Consideration may need to be given to alternative measures to protect against volatility.

There have been many recent examples where the PRN price increases have unlocked recycling opportunities which a compliance fee could undo. If there is a compliance fee, it should be high enough to encourage operators to ensure that material is collected and recycled and not to rely on it as a way of avoiding targets.

The use of compliance fee revenue will also need to be carefully considered by the Government to ensure it helps to increase recycling. Since 2013, the availability of a compliance fee for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) has enabled producers to avoid the difficult-to-collect WEEE by effectively paying an administration fee for any failure to meet targets.

Retention of the PRN under the new EPR system will do nothing to improve the design and recyclability of packaging – that will be left to the Modulated Fee that will be paid by producers for all packaging they place on the market.

The WEEE compliance fee has generated around £12m over the last 5 years because of the gap between collection volumes and the collection targets. This has been used for research and communication projects including the Recycle Your Electricals campaign that has been widely promoted on social media. But whilst this funding is welcome, it has led to little growth in collection volumes.

The current system of Civil Sanctions whereby companies make donations to environmental charities in the event of non-compliance on packaging has come in for significant criticism as it is seen to have done little to help meet targets

Retention of the PRN under the new EPR system will do nothing to improve the design and recyclability of packaging – that will be left to the Modulated Fee that will be paid by producers for all packaging they place on the market.

When the new system starts in 2024, producers will make two payments – a material-based fixed fee, paid to the Scheme Administrator to fund Council packaging recycling costs estimated to be approximately £1.7 billion, and the PRN fee paid to Compliance Schemes that will then be paid to reprocessors and exporters for evidence of recycling as per the current scheme.

From 2025, the fee paid to the Scheme Administrator will be modulated to take account of packaging design and recyclability.

The compliance year and trading periods

The consideration of an extension of the PRN compliance year is of concern as it could simply delay the measures needed to meet targets and affect infrastructure development. It would also lead to confusion over targets and in my view, would undermine one of the key purposes of the PRN as a market driver to increase recycling levels

Deposit Return Scheme

The Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is expected to be implemented at the same time as the new EPR scheme. There are concerns as to how DRS materials that are not collected under the DRS scheme (where they remain in household waste) will impact on the PRN system as these will not be subject to producer responsibility targets and charges.

Over supply may reduce the price of PRN in the open market as there may end up being more recycling evidence than is needed to meet targets. It may be a given that estimated DRS materials are removed from the system.

By sampling assessments and introducing protocols there may be an opportunity for collecting and treating these materials from the residual stream should large volumes be coming into the system via this route. The key to this is giving full DRS value to the recyclers.

The consultation suggests estimating the level of DRS material in recycling and residual waste to limit the potential PRNs issued. I would question what we do with the estimate. Should we assume it is removed from the system? Should we collect and treat it? Should it be separated? Should the DMO buy the tonnage of DRS materials from the PRN market?

Industry infrastructure

At Re-Gen, we see mixed dry recyclables in the residual waste as valuable commodities which will be needed in future to meet escalating targets.

It is clear that the current PRN system is in need of dynamic reform to create a model for future EPR that can deliver a more robust system of traceability and transparency.

Re-Gen welcomes many of the proposals to tighten the process and ensure that producer costs can be properly justified, and that PRNs are only issued for packaging waste that has been properly recycled.

However, we must ensure that the system is not so overly burdensome and controlled that it takes away the ability for the market to deliver on future targets and the best environmental outcome.

Re-Gen is at the forefront of sorting technology, but investment in future needs can only come through the right policies that provide market freedom and certainty of regulation. I firmly believe the PRN system can deliver this and look forward to being able to work with government and the agencies to ensure the right outcome is achieved.

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