The facility that processes recycling for Tulsa-area communities will not reopen until late December at the earliest, but it will boast an improved sorting system when it does. The Tulsa Recycle Transfer facility, or TRT, was badly damaged and its sorting equipment destroyed by a fire April 1. The blaze was sparked by a lithium-ion battery in the recycling stream.

American Waste Vice President of Recycling Robert Pickens said the new sorting system will include several robots that will work alongside humans and help speed up sorting. Paired with a wider conveyor belt and enhanced optical scanners, the company will be able to process a larger volume of materials at one time. “The robots can move at a rate that is three to four times that of an individual, and they can do it all day long. They don’t tire. So, you don’t have to deal with the Oklahoma heat doing that, because it’s pretty strenuous this time of the year,” Pickens said.

The robots will be powered by artificial intelligence and get updates from a global database of materials. Pickens said they will be much better at picking out hard-to-identify recyclables, like plastic clamshell containers that are hard to identify. They will also be better at separating crushed aluminum cans and plastic bottles into appropriate streams. The flattened containers often slip by and end up contaminating recycled paper American Waste sells.

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Author: Matt Trotter, Public Radio Tulsa
Image: Tulsa Recycle Transfer Facility