DS Smith and IBM develop AI solution to improve recycled paper quality

New camera technology uses AI on the IBM Cloud to measure the grade and quality of material arriving at depots.

Sustainable FTSE100 packaging leader DS Smith has collaborated with IBM in the UK to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a tool to help improve the quality of paper and cardboard collected for recycling.



Trialing the technology at its recycling depot in Kemsley, the company has invested in new camera technology that uses AI modelling capabilities on IBM Cloud, to assess the grade, quality and origin of the material arriving at the depot.



Positioned in the ceiling of the depot, the cameras can identify whether the composition of the loose paper and cardboard meets strict quality guidelines before being sent for baling and recycling. This was achieved by teams from DS Smith and IBM Expert Labs working together to develop an AI model that can compare data from images of the materials with a specific set of criteria. The state-of-the-art innovation improves the efficiency and accuracy of the process, which has traditionally been done using the human eye.



The insights drawn from the imagery are used to inform the production process but can also be reported back to suppliers to help improve the quality of the material arriving at the depot.


As more material is fed through the process and more data is analysed, the AI model is continuously refined, improving the accuracy and quality of inspection.



Stephanie Dalton, Innovation Manager, Recycling Division at DS Smith said:



“Innovating to make sure we can improve the quality of material is key for driving up recycling rates. Exploring the latest technologies and digitalising our operations enables us to operate more efficiently and sustainably while simultaneously improving the quality of paper for recycling. This collaboration with IBM is good news for our suppliers of recovered paper as it allows us to work even more closely to make sure they are optimising their recycling processes – ultimately improving recycling through reducing contamination.”



Janet White, Industrial Products Leader, IBM Consulting UK & Ireland, said:



“IBM’s collaboration with DS Smith represents the best of IBM’s capabilities to help organisations pursue their sustainability goals through digital modernisation. Using the power of hybrid cloud and Artificial Intelligence technologies to transform DS Smith’s recycling operation, this solution will significantly improve the quality of recycling output while reducing waste.”



Kemsley Recycling Depot is located within and supplies material for Kemsley Paper Mill – the largest mill for recycled papers in the UK with an annual production capacity of over 840,000 tonnes.


DS Smith will continue to collaborate with IBM Expert Labs and IBM Consulting on the deployment of the technology across more of its recycling depots throughout Europe.

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