Caglia Environmental uses robots to catch things that shouldn't be in the blue trash - GV wire

Caglia Environmental uses robots to catch things that shouldn’t be in the blue trash – GV wire

Far from the mountains of trash that pile up at the Caglia environmental facility in Fresno, 320 tons of waste is recycled every day with the help of robots and human staff working side by side looking for things that can’t be recycled.

On Monday morning, Caglia Environmental hosted a media tour of its facilities at Cedar Avenue recycling and transportation terminal, unveiling new technology that helped the regional facility turn its course. Plastic materials that are difficult to process from landfills in the middle of the valley.

Richard Caglia, the company’s head of corporate development, says emerging technology in recent years has made many plastics easier to recycle. But he also acknowledges that there is still much to be done.

“Robots are doing a better job for the recycling market — meeting and bypassing California regulations and mandates,” Caglia said. “They are doing a good job for our community, and they are doing a good job for our municipalities we serve.”

New technology is shaping the way plastic waste is recycled

The advantage of robots is that they easily sense waste that cannot be recycled after dropping it into the facility.

They are also very good at recognizing hard-to-process plastics buried deep in trash and recyclables.

Plus, they can quickly jump into action to put out fires lit by batteries and other electronic devices that were accidentally dumped into recyclable blue wagon crates by residents.

These robots easily detect potential fire hazards hidden deep in a pile of trash that humans can’t always see or smell. The robots then emit a high force of water foam from a hose before a fire breaks out.

Currently, Caglia has four of these CAT bots.

Caglia Environmental has 4 CAT robots at the Cedar Avenue Recycling and Transfer Station to help stop the fires from breaking out. (GV Wire/Liz Juarez)

What is hurting the recycling industry?

Despite the advances in technology, there are still challenges in the recycling industry as many residents are still ignorant and unsure of what materials they are put into.

Disposing of recyclables such as some types of plastic, cardboard, and paper in a blue cart basket is not a new concept.

In 2005, a mandatory recycling ordinance was passed requiring all multi-family and commercial customers to begin recycling some of their waste.

Both the county and city of Fresno focused on outreach and education. They regularly send out flyers detailing what to throw in the gray, blue and green cart boxes.

However, more batteries, electronics and propane tanks are being dumped in blue camper bins potentially causing fires, says Nasrin Johnson, director of community relations and external affairs at Caglia.

Old electronics and batteries are often dumped in blue recycling bins causing fires at waste facilities like Caglia Environmental. (GV Wire/Liz Juarez)

“Sometimes fires start deep inside a pile, but CAT robots will know where they are burning,” Johnson said. “Lots of people who throw away batteries that shouldn’t be recycled is causing these fires.”

Residents can leave old batteries at any Fresno County public library, Johnson says, or look for places like Fresno County Regional Household Hazardous Waste Facility for dumping hazardous waste.

Caglia seeks partnerships to help divert waste

Recycling is a tough industry to be in, says Mike LeDiffe, director of CARTS division. To meet these challenges, they are looking for partnerships that can help them get access to improved technology.

Recently, the CARTS facility received a $250,000 grant from recycling partnership, A national non-profit organization that aims to invest and support public recycling programs and facilities such as Caglia.

“Our partnership with the Recycling Partnership has been huge,” LeDev said.

In part, due to a grant from the Recycling Partnership, CARTS has been able to purchase a robot from AMP Robotics that assists in polypropylene recovery.

“Polypropylene is a very interesting material in that it comes in so many forms,” said Brittany Lavalle, who leads the Polypropylene Alliance for Recycling Partnership as Circular Projects Manager.

“Think of butter tubs, yogurt cups, sour cream tubs, and cosmetic packaging products, because with such a range of formats, the amazing technology offered by companies like AMP is incredibly useful for sorting all of these packaging formats.”

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