In mid-April, Bulk Handling Systems (BHS) announced the arrival of Max-AI™ technology, an artificial intelligence system that identifies recyclables and other items for recovery. Through deep learning technology, Max-AI employs both multi-layered neural networks and a vision system to see and identify objects similarly to the way a person does.

The technology will drive improvements in Material Recovery Facility (MRF) design, operational efficiency, recovery, system optimization and maintenance.

The first available machine utilizing Max-AI technology is an Autonomous Quality Control (QC) unit that sorts container streams that have previously undergone separation in an NRT optical sorter. The Max-AI unit uses its vision system to see the material, its artificial intelligence to think and identify each item, and a robot to pick targeted items. This system is able to make multiple sorting decisions autonomously, for example, separating various materials such as thermoform trays, aluminum, and fiber, while removing residue from a stream of PET bottles. All of this is done at rates exceeding human capabilities.


The first commercial Autonomous QC unit is already in operation at Athens Services’ Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Sun Valley, California. A recipient of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) Award for Excellence in 2016, Athens was an ideal location for the first installation of Max-AI robotic sorters to complement the advanced screen, air, and optical separation technology already in use. Integrating seamlessly with the company’s existing NRT optical sorters, the Max-AlTM units provide a fully autonomous PET sorting solution and are responsible for quality control of PET streams during the plant’s two daytime shifts.

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Published in: FuturENVIRO #40 May 2017