2nd February 2023
AI-driven waste robotics company secures funding from DCVC to enable scaling of technology set to revolutionise global waste management.
Recycleye, provider of the most adapted and robust AI-driven solution for sorting dry mixed recycling, today announced a $17m Series A financing round, led by deep-tech venture capital firm DCVC.
Recycleye uses AI-powered waste-picking robots to lower the cost of sorting materials. This ground-breaking technology is turning the world’s waste into resource and delivering data essential for dynamic decision-making in a Material Recovery Facility (MRF). The new investment will be used to further improve the uncommon accuracy of Recycleye’s sorting.
DCVC led the funding round, with existing investors increasing their stakes. Promus Ventures, Playfair Capital, MMC Ventures, Creator Fund and Atypical were joined by new Madrid-based investors Seaya Andromeda. The series A follows $5m previously raised in 2021 and $2.6m secured to date in European and UK government innovation funding.
Recycleye’s technology combines computer vision and robotics to pick with more consistent accuracy than a human. Using proprietary AI models, the robot “sees” waste and is trained to pick an unlimited number of material classes such as plastics, aluminium, paper and cardboard.
Recycleye Robotics is the most accurate and efficient AI robotic picking solution globally available today. Objects are scanned and identified at an unrivaled 60 frames per second. This is twice as fast as the industry standard and means that each item is seen on average 30 times as it passes along the conveyor belt, with double the chance of being accurately identified before picking.
Recycleye was developed for use with the waste generated by households and businesses, and is able to operate 24/7, 365 days a year, currently picking up to 33,000 items per robot over a 10-hour shift, while capturing compositional data to enable strategic decisions by plant managers. Recycleye is working with a growing number of waste management companies facing the two-fold challenge of labour shortages and increased costs while responding to growing demand for quality recyclates.
Rory Brien, General Manager of FCC for re3, in Reading, England, said, “At FCC, we believe in being forward-thinking, so investing in the latest waste sorting technology was an obvious choice. Recycleye Robotics is delivering the consistent purity in sorted material and reliable data that we need to run an effective facility”.
Today, many materials cost more to sort than they are worth and are therefore downcycled.
In 2022, the OECD reported that only 9% of plastic has ever been recycled, with around 50% going to landfill. Changing this wasteful and environmentally damaging dynamic, seen across a range of materials, presents a tremendous business opportunity.
A small team of Recycleye engineers is able to retrofit the company’s technology into existing sorting facilities, and over a weekend if needed to minimize plant downtime. Installed at the end of the sorting process, Recycleye robot models can pick contaminants and valuable objects, depending on client requirements, both of which may have been missed earlier in a plant’s sorting process.
Recycleye was co-founded in 2019 by CEO Victor Dewulf and CTO Peter Hedley, and its technology is installed in facilities in England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Australia, the US and France, with multiple robot orders confirmed in Italy and Belgium.
The Recycleye team has grown to 33 experts and includes graduates of Cambridge, Caltech, Imperial College London and the Universities of Bath, Warwick, Cardiff, Sheffield and Southampton. The team boasts a wealth of experience in software, machine learning, robotics, engineering, project management, technical sales, HR, and marketing, drawn from sectors including oil and gas, energy, telecoms and technology.
“We believe that waste does not exist, only materials in the wrong place,” said Hedley. “Our mission is to provide intelligent sorting technology that delivers dramatic financial and environmental returns to the global management of waste. This new investment will help us to further fine-tune our world-leading solutions, underpinned by the solid maintenance network our clients need to generate more output value”.
“The opportunity for applying AI waste sorting technology to the global waste management sector is staggering, even when only 8% of waste is currently recycled,” added Dewulf. “With this investment, we can scale our operations to target a market which we estimate to have a SAM of $114bn globally today, but with the potential to increase by 14 times to $1.6Tr when the cost of sorting is reduced”.
Kelly Chen, a Partner at DCVC, said, “Recycleye is a quintessential DCVC investment, using deep tech to fundamentally shift the economics and scale of the trillion-dollar problem of material recovery and recycling.”