Just in time to probe through holiday wrapping paper and plastic packaging, a crew of new AI-assisted robots and optical scanning machines at San Francisco's Recology recycling center will help make sense of all the reusable bits some 800,000 San Franciscans dispose of daily.

As reported by KTVU, the SF recycling bastion deployed a string of sophisticated robots and scanning machines this past October that are now helping sift through the holiday rubbish, which amounts to a 17 percent increase over the 650 tons of trash the center already sees, every day.

"[One of the machines] is a robotic sorter," said Robert Reed, a Recology spokesman, to the media outlet. This year alone, the worker-owned company has invested more than $7 million in technology upgrades for the hub — four new robots and three new optical scanning machines — that'll aid the 175 workers at the location.

"It's the first of four robots that we've installed recently in this plant, this one is looking for plastic boxes like a salad clamshell container,” Reed says.

The new techy help at the facility — which costs Recology $1M for each unit — uses AI (artificial intelligence) and optical scanning that can be programmed to pick out certain kinds of plastic containers, based on their dimensions. Plastic is far more difficult to process than metals, because it can't be retrieved by traditional sorting magnets.

"Plastic is not magnetic so you can't pick it up with a magnet," Reed adds. "This does seventy, 7-0 selections a minute."

Still, about 80 percent of all recycled materials are processed by warm-bodied workers, even though the San Francisco Recology recycling center became the first in the nation to get those 3 state-of-the-art optical scanners, capable of automatically separating plastic bags from paper ones. Reed went on to say that the new machines are still necessary to more efficiently organize recycled goods for sale in the marketplace, crucial in a world that now "demands less than one percent impurities in the finished bales of recycling."

San Francisco hopes to reduce its landfill waste by half come 2030, with Recology San Francisco playing a critical role in seeing that goal to fruition.

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Image: Flickr via protohiro