AI recycling startup COO ‘energized’ to be selected for UAE accelerator

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The COO of a company that builds artificial intelligence-powered recycling bins said it was “energizing” to be selected for a United Arab Emirates business accelerator program.

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PepsiCo’s Greenhouse Accelerator involves ten companies that focus on sustainability.

It was launched in conjunction with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, and received more than 70 applicants.

The winner of the program will receive a $100,000 grant and access to PepsiCo’s network of experts.

“It’s been energizing,” Ayola Bimmo, COO of Cycled Technologies, told Al Arabiya English.

“As a startup, especially when you're in the sustainability space, it's very rare to actually have an accumulation of minds who are thinking in the same direction,” he added.

Cycled Technologies bins use a camera to take a picture of waste that is placed into the receptacles, at which point AI technology determines whether it can be recycled or not.

It is then placed in one of two different sections – one for recyclable plastics and another for non-recyclable materials.

The technology has been adopted by Mecca’s municipality in Saudi Arabia and UAE developers including Aldar.

In an interview with Al Arabiya English, PepsiCo’s Middle East CEO Aamer Sheikh spoke about some of the innovations being made by the 10 startups that were selected for the program.

“For us, it's a great way to collaborate with young entrepreneurs who are agile, who are really leveraging technology to get to breakthrough solutions that we otherwise may not have access to,” he said.

Eugene Willemsen, PepsiCo CEO for Africa, Middle East, South Asia, highlighted two other businesses involved in the accelerator program.

One of these is Nadeera, whose app offers incentives for people to recycle.

Another is Okeanos, which is working to combine calcium carbonate with plastic resin in order to improve recyclability of plastic packaging.

Willemsen also spoke on the importance setting improving systems to facilitate the recycling of plastic.

“I think it starts with putting in place the right set of recycling infrastructure in markets,” He said. “So that is that is one step.

“The second is making sure that there's an economic model also for recyclers that enables them to invest in these recycling facilities that enables us to get, for instance, access to recycled PET.”

Willemsen added: “I think also one real important unlock is working on changing consumer behavior and putting in place the right kind of behavioral sets that help drive that circular economy.”

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