Track apps

How a startup will track plastic waste shipments

Bill Robberson, President and Chief Technology Officer of Kamilo, Inc., presented during a plenary session focused on greenhouse gas emissions at the 2022 Plastics Recycling Conference. | Photo by Brian Adams

The US EPA provided funding to Kamilo, Inc., which uses technology to monitor materials moving through the recycling chain, with the goal of increasing the value of recycled resins.

APE in December reward a $100,000 grant to Kamilo, an Oakland, Calif.-based startup that uses advanced software to help the value chain track material shipments. Founded in late 2019, the for-profit public benefit corporation is the brainchild of Anna-Marie Cook and Bill Robberson, both former US EPA staff.

The goal of Kamilo’s technology is to provide accurate data on the plastics recycling supply chain, which is lacking, Cook, co-founder and CEO of the company, told Resource Recycling in an interview. .

“It’s very granular compared to anything that’s out there right now,” she said, “and hopefully it will bring much better metrics and much better data on what’s going on in products that require recycled materials.”

Kamilo technology subscribers use an app on their mobile devices to scan digital identifiers (QR codes or transponders) attached to plastic waste shipments. These digital IDs could be attached to gaylords, superbags, bales, trucks, shipping containers, or other containers.

The user inputs a few things, including shipment weight and polymer, and takes photos, and the information is uploaded to a Quantum Ledger Database (QLDB) hosted by Amazon Web Services. QLDBs provide immutable, transparent, and cryptographically verifiable transaction logs.

Kamilo’s technology is hosted on a geospatial portal provided by Esri, a geographic information systems (GIS) software company, to integrate information about shipments of bales, flakes, pellets, or intermediates or end with GIS layers containing information on transportation systems, land use, natural features, utilities and more.

Subscribers have access to a dashboard where they can access real-time information, Cook said. “We can watch the movement of the plastic from one facility to the next,” all the way to the final product, Cook said.

trip to hawaii inspire action

While working for EPA Region 9, which includes California, Hawaii and the Pacific Island territories, Cook and Robberson visited Kamilo Point in Hawaii. In Hawaiian, “kamilo” means twisting or swirling currents.

At the southern tip of the Big Island, the beaches there are flooded with plastic waste, said Cook, who started the EPA’s Region 9 Marine Debris Program. This program is now the EPA Trash Free Waters Program which receives funding under the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act past and signed into law in December 2020.

Cook said she and Robberson made a pact that one day they would together create a for-profit company aimed at increasing the value of plastics so they don’t get thrown away and end up in the environment. Robberson left the EPA in August 2018 and Cook in February 2021. They incorporated Kamilo, Inc. in November 2019, though development work on the startup didn’t begin in earnest until early 2021, it said. she declared. Robberson is co-founder, president and chief technology officer of the company. The small team also includes chief financial officer Dave Reilly, who joined in 2020.

For customers, the data generated by Kamilo’s technology provides consumers and brand owners with assurance that they are receiving products made with recycled resin, potentially enabling Kamilo to provide required recycled content verifications. under online law in a number of states. , including Californiasaid Cook.

Screenshot of Kamilo's chain of custody tracking software.

Screenshot of Kamilo’s Chain of Custody tracking program.

The data also gives MRFs and other upstream participants confidence that the bales they ship are being recycled, not burned or landfilled, she said.

“Our idea was to measure the journey of plastic and reward players who are already doing the right thing and encourage those who are thinking of doing the right thing when it comes to plastic recycling,” Cook said.

Kamilo is also able to offer levels of anonymity to companies that do not wish to be identified by name as buyers or sellers of the material, while providing generic data to indicate where the material has travelled, said Cook.

The inclusion of geospatial data from Ersi helps value chain participants know where to send their plastic to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Cook said, and it can help inform decisions about location of facilities. The software leverages the EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM) to calculate the GHG impacts of using recycled resins, transportation impacts, and more. Robberson spoke about his company’s GHG emissions data capabilities during a Plenary session focused on GHGs at the 2022 Plastics Recycling Conference, held March 6-8 near Washington, DC

EPA Funding Supports Pilot Projects

The EPA money Kamilo received was a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I grant (due to his former work on microplastics for the EPA, Cook said that she had consulted and followed the advice of EPA ethics attorneys in applying for a grant).

The Phase 1 grant money, which runs until May 31, 2022, has helped Kamilo launch pilot projects across California, Cook said. The organizations Kamilo works with mainly process HDPE and LDPE films, with some PP.

“Overall, I would say the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” she said.

Kamilo also plans to apply for Phase II funding from the EPA SBIR, which pays to bring a technology to full commercialization, she said.

The technology can be used to track shipments of all materials, including other recyclables, she noted. For example, people participating in the pilot have expressed interest in tracking cardboard shipments downstream, she said.

The EPA funding site Remarks the universal desire for greater transparency in recycling markets: “In-depth interviews and discussions with recycling industry stakeholders, including municipalities, MRF operators, recycling brokers and processors, Waste generators, manufacturers, regulators, consumer brands and individuals show near universal agreement that greater transparency is needed and would benefit the recycling market.

A version of this story appeared in Plastics Recycling Update on March 23.

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