A recently announced partnership between Unilever and Alibaba Group aims to create a “Waste Free World” with the help of newly designed recycling machines that use artificial intelligence (AI) to “automatically identify and sort plastic packaging.” This, in turn, can accelerate the process of returning high-grade plastic back into a closed-loop recycling system.
Customers scan QR codes on plastic bottles before placing them into the machines. Then, the AI technology identifies the type of plastic and sorts it accordingly. “The bottle's recycled plastic granules can then be deployed in the packaging of future Unilever products, finding their way back into stores and re-starting the recycling loop.” For their participation, customers can receive Unilever coupons and rewards on Alibaba's e-wallet service AliPay.
The partnership has so far placed twenty of its machines in offices and community spaces in the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Hangzhou, with 500 more set for installation throughout this year.