Tech

Coworking with Mac Schlicher

He’s senior process engineer at rPlanet Earth.
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Mac Schlicher

· less than 3 min read

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Coworking is a weekly segment where we spotlight Emerging Tech Brew readers who work with emerging technologies. Click here if you’d like a chance to be featured.

How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t work in tech?

RPlanet Earth is an innovative packaging company reusing post-consumer plastics as a feedstock to produce the highest-quality products with the lowest carbon footprint. My responsibility is to design and implement projects to improve our plastic recycling process. These projects include automation infrastructure (like optical sorters and robots) to sort out the contamination in curbside recycling streams. Basically, I work to make plastic recycling more environmentally friendly and economical.

What’s your favorite emerging tech project you’ve worked on?

AI robots using neural networks to properly identify contamination in waste streams. There are robots on the market now that can identify plastic bottles and packaging by the brand!

What emerging tech are you most optimistic about? Least? And why?

Most optimistic about the effectiveness of intelligent sorting with automation and robots in the waste industry. Specifically, I’m optimistic that in the future we could have digital watermarks embedded in all plastic packaging, which will provide effective identification and sorting, but also massive amounts of data.

I’m least optimistic about biodegradable materials or bioplastics. From my knowledge, most of the materials currently on the market need industrial composters to actually degrade. The composting infrastructure is far less developed than the recycling infrastructure. To be clear, I think compostable material has a place, but there needs to be a multi-pronged approach to solving the plastic waste crisis that involves reusing, recycling, and biodegradable packaging.

One thing we can’t guess from your LinkedIn profile?

I surf at least three times per week.

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