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A Word About Recycling with Ollie Maier

Sunday, May 5, 2019

As mentioned last week, I found one of the articles in the Resource Recycling newsletter quite interesting and informative, thus hoped you would likewise agree. Since I didn’t finish it last week, we will do so now.

At the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) Impact conference, held in Seattle earlier last month, hundreds of packaging stakeholders discussed sustainability including recycling.

At the conference, the 665 attendees heard speakers discuss, among other things, the development of a recycled material standard that could foster new recycling capacity.

One of the speakers mentioned, “Another effort to bring more visibility and potential growth to recycling is the development of an industry standard – and accompanying label for packaging – that would verify the use of recycled material.”

She explained, as part of the Recycled Material Standard project, a system would be developed to audit "the different materials so that brands, consumers and others would have faith in the recycled-content claims on the side of a bottle or other item.”

A second possible part of this standard would borrow a concept from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). “Under that paradigm, paper manufacturers might have some product lines that are well-suited to having recycled content and other product lines where dropping in recycled material remains technically challenging.”

However, if they meet a minimum recycled-content standard throughout their complete line, the use of an SFI label is acceptable on all products. The label means the company is promoting sustainable forestry and recycled content.

This new standard is still very much in the developmental stage.

The conference also addressed artificial intelligence in regards to materials recovery. Although most of the focus so far is on robotic systems in recycling sorting line, it is felt AI technology can also have a role in efforts to reduce plastic marine debris.

A speaker from Microsoft, reported this software giant committed $50 million over five years to its "AI for Earth'"effort. This effort focuses on using artificial intelligence to encourage improvements in agriculture, water, biodiversity and climate change.

In a partnership with the nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup, they have placed cameras along rivers in Southeast Asia to document the volumes and types of pollution that flow into waterways.

The use of these cameras is not to point fingers. They are used because “to do a count and quantification is not humanly possible, but AI can learn and identify plastics in a photo,"the speaker said. "This is incredibly important in the effort to solve this problem.”

Let’s hope these ideas/efforts are successful in not only saving money for the customer, but also in saving resources for the future and cleaning-up/helping keep the environment more neat/livable.

Till next week, do have an enjoyable and safe one.


Ollie is a local citizen concerned with the environment and helping others. A retired Air Force fighter and instructor pilot, he is a graduate of Leadership San Marcos and received his degrees at Texas State University where he worked on staff before totally retiring. For questions or comments, he invites you to call him at 512-353-7432 or email

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