At an RDS of Virginia recycling center in Roanoke, two spider-like, 300-pound robots sort through an unending line of trash. One robot’s skinny leg, which relies on computer vision to detect recyclables, plucks a hunk of blue plastic off a conveyor belt, while the other’s grabs a piece of an old water bottle. The machine then places those bits into sorting bins using a vacuum gripper.
For the nation’s 600-plus recycling facilities, which process some 67 million tons of waste, these leggy robots from AMP Robotics are one answer to the current bottlenecks facing the industry. Even before Covid-19 struck, AMP Robotics was starting to gain traction. But as boxes from home deliveries piled up at recycling centers and hiring—already a tough proposition—got even tougher as workers feared getting ill, AMP’s business boomed.