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The repercussions of improper recycling resonate through every level of the waste-infrastructure pyramid, causing issues for both recycling facilities and the environment. Many Americans are unsure of recycling procedures, resulting in contamination at waste facilities. However, two companies, Bollegraaf and AI-startup Greyparrot, are on a mission to alleviate these issues using artificial intelligence (AI), offering a promising new approach to waste management.

Approximately 30% of the recyclable material still ends up in landfills due to ineffective sorting, even though Greyparrot has already installed its AI trash-sorting technology in various facilities. With current methods, only about one-third of U.S. garbage is recycled or composted, a figure even lower for plastic.

The AI devised by Bollegraaf and Greyparrot promises a way out from this predicament. The technology uses visual and infrared cameras to categorize items on a conveyor belt. The objective is not only to streamline the sorting process, making it more efficient and reducing contamination, but also to increase the value of recycled materials by making them more likely for reuse.

Offering a potentially bright future for the recycling industry, they also envisage a secondary advantage of the system: it could be leveraged to hold companies accountable for non-recyclable packaging. With the capability of the AI system to identify and analyze every item in a waste plant, packaging producers that account for a significant amount of non-recyclable materials could be identified and held accountable.

Despite the potential of AI-enhanced recycling, some experts advocate that educating the public to improve recycling habits may be the most effective method to bolster recycling rates. The call for education indicates that technology alone can't solve the issue; a behavioural shift towards proper recycling practices from the consumers is vital.

Bollegraaf and Greyparrot are planning to install their AI systems in thousands of waste facilities globally over the next few years, signaling a potentially monumental shift in the recycling industry. As these systems become more prevalent, recycling procedures might become more streamlined and efficient, resulting in a decrease in landfill waste and better recycling outcomes.

The enduring battle with low recycling and high waste rates underlines the necessity for innovation and change in the sector. Whether that change will be brought about through AI technology, behavioural shifts, or a combination of both remains to be seen. As this technology matures and more consumers become educated about recycling practices, we may start to see a brighter, more sustainable future for waste management. The proof, as always, will be in the proverbial pudding.