A British Columbia-based technology company was recently awarded a grant from the CleanBC Plastics Action Fund to support the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered technology that can sort plastics automatically.

Metaspectral, a company offering technology that derives real-time insights from AI using ultra-high-resolution, visible-to-infrared (hyperspectral) imagery, was awarded over $300,000 in grant funding from the CleanBC Plastics Action Fund, which is funded by the BC government and administered by Alacrity Cleantech.

The CleanBC Plastics Action Fund supports B.C. businesses creating value from used plastics by including more recycled material in product manufacturing to keep plastic out of landfills.

Metaspectral will use this funding for the development of computer vision, artificial intelligence, and robotics designed to sort consumer waste, increase efficiency in processing materials and improve the quality of post-consumer recycled plastic. The project is slated for completion by December 31, 2021.

“By using ultra-high-resolution hyperspectral imaging, our AI is able to efficiently distinguish among types of plastics for accurate and easy sorting,” said Francis Doumet, CEO of Metaspectral. “It is impossible for humans to differentiate between different types of clear plastic bottles with the naked eye, so until now, various types of recycled clear plastics were sold together in bulk, decreasing the quality and value of the finished recycled material. Our technology will make it possible to differentiate between otherwise indistinguishable materials in real-time, automatically, meaning that large quantities of plastic can be sorted and recycled more efficiently and accurately.”

This technology will support the circular economy for plastics and stimulate more local processing capacity for recycling as more manufacturers begin using the higher-quality recycled plastics.

Both federal and provincial governments have set ambitious recycling targets and have endorsed policy agreements to reduce plastic waste.  This technology will be an important ally in achieving those objectives. Metaspectral will also be contributing to the Government of Canada’s Greening Government strategy of increasing the ratio of plastics that are recycled to 75 per cent by 2030, up from nine per cent today.

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