The Rise of Autonomous Robotics in Modern Recycling: Pallets, Gaylord Boxes, IBC Totes, and Metal Drums

by Repackify
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The Rise of Autonomous Robotics in Modern Recycling

The need for automation in recycling is higher than ever. Economic trends, tech advancements, and new private sector initiatives are pushing companies to use autonomous robots for better productivity and efficiency.

What is Recycling Logistics?

Recycling logistics covers the entire process of collecting, sorting, processing, and redistributing recyclable materials like pallets, Gaylord boxes, IBC totes, and metal drums. Big recycling operations, such as Waste Management and Republic Services, handle large volumes, while third-party logistics providers also play a vital role.

The aim is to cut costs and speed up recycling processes. This is where autonomous robots come in.

How Do Autonomous Robots Increase Efficiency?

Robots have long been used in logistics, but advances in AI mean they can now handle more complex tasks. Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) help with sorting and handling materials in recycling facilities. Autonomous forklifts move heavy pallets and Gaylord boxes. These systems also help unload trucks, reducing physical strain on workers.

In recycling, robots can take over dull, dangerous, and dirty tasks, improving safety and efficiency.

Changes in the Labor Market

The labor market has changed significantly since the pandemic. Wage growth in blue-collar jobs, including recycling, has surged. Trade and transportation wages peaked at 7% in 2023. Low-wage workers saw a 12% increase in wages post-pandemic.

Higher wages mean a tighter job market and more employee turnover, which is costly in terms of hiring, training, and productivity. Trade, transportation, and utilities sectors have seen the highest quit rates among blue-collar jobs.

To stay efficient and profitable, companies need to reduce downtime and turnover, often leading to more wage increases. These increases are likely to continue due to policy changes and the threat of labor strikes. Since 2019, the minimum wage has risen in 29 states and Washington DC.

Automation Mandates

Given these labor market challenges, recycling companies are turning to robotics to cut costs and boost productivity. For example, in 2021, Walmart announced a $14 billion investment in automation and supply chain technologies. DHL plans to deploy 1,000 AMRs by 2025, with an additional $200 million investment to speed up this goal.

Autonomous systems like Fox Robotics' automated forklifts and Locus Robotics' AMRs are transforming the recycling industry by enhancing efficiency, reducing manual labor, and helping companies stay competitive.

The Future of Autonomous Robotics in Recycling

Autonomous robotics will revolutionize recycling in the next decade. They will make processes more efficient, reduce costs, and speed up turnaround times. Human workers will be relieved of monotonous tasks, leading to a safer and more efficient work environment.