AI-powered recycling startup Sorted raises £1.65m

Sorted, a London-based recycling tech business, has raised £1.65 million in a seed funding round led by Pi Labs. Other investors include the circular economy-focused fund Archipelago Ventures, Circular Plastics Accelerator, Conduit Connect, Antler and angel investors.

Each year, 2.12 billion tonnes of waste is dumped globally, with devastating effects on our air, oceans and soil. Governments are increasing pressure to reduce reliance on single-use materials and increase recycled content. However, the waste industry is struggling to meet this demand because of the complexity behind sorting recycled materials such as plastic, compounding a missed $133 billion opportunity.

Sorted is tackling the global sustainability issue by enabling human pickers to better sort and recover targeted materials. Using computer vision, spectroscopy and coloured lasers driven by AI, their solution identifies, differentiates and pinpoints valuable items on recycling lines. This unique use of AI offers a digitised solution to a very physical problem.

In its first use case, by increasing picker performance, Sorted has improved residual waste recovery by over 50%. Instead of going to incineration, each item recovered represents additional revenue potential for Sorted’s customers, and reduced carbon emissions.

The startup already counts some of the largest waste management and recycling firms across the UK and France as customers, including SUEZ UK and Cawleys.

Sorted was co-founded in 2022 by Arthur Goujon and Luis Espinosa. Arthur has over 15 years’ experience in waste management and tech, including as Head of Digital at the global waste management company SUEZ, and Luis has helped scale numerous unicorns over the past decade including Uber, Rappi and DiDi.

Arthur Goujon, Co-Founder and CTO at Sorted, said: “Our mission is to help waste management companies sort their waste more effectively and maximise recovery of recyclable materials through aiding Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) and Plastic Recovery Facilities (PRFs) in improving their workforce efficiency. We use AI to augment and better enable human pickers, and our UK pilots show increased revenue and performance as well as reduced costs through using Sorted’s technology.

“Under pressure to comply with upcoming regulations such as the UK Emissions Trading Scheme, our customers are actively seeking ways to reduce the amount of materials such as carbon-heavy plastic they send to incineration and avoid increased fees. Our product addresses this and other challenges facing the industry, enabling it to reduce its carbon footprint and increase the output and viability of recycled materials.

“We are thrilled to be supported by Pi Labs and our other investors. This new funding will enable us to expand our business development and technical teams, accelerating our go-to-market strategy.”

Faisal Butt, Founder and Managing Partner at Pi Labs, said: “With global annual waste generation predicted to increase by 70% between 2018 and 2050, we urgently need innovative solutions to help us move towards a zero waste economy. Corporations risk running afoul of their own corporate sustainability goals unless they maximise their ability to obtain recycled materials. With the creation of their super pickers, Sorted has created a digitalised and sustainable solution to this problem while helping their customers contribute to a circular economy.

“Arthur and Luis have tremendous experience individually and combined are a dynamic duo of founders. We’re very excited about Sorted’s growth potential and the contribution they will make to reducing landfill and carbon emissions. This investment furthers our portfolio of companies focused on creating healthier, more sustainable cities.”

Fred Stinchcombe, Production Regional Manager at SUEZ UK, said: “The biggest challenge we have right now is continuously adapting what we do to what brings the most value: either reducing residual waste or achieving higher quality output, but without having to redesign our plants. Sorted is tackling exactly that; the team understands our operation and is leveraging technology in a pragmatic way to start adding value from the start.”