SortFlow Limited is a London-based cleantech startup developing software applications and offering consultancy services to help the waste & recycling Industry be more efficient.

The company launched its first product at the end of 2020. SortFlow Process is the first ‘Process Intelligence Platform’ for the waste and recycling industry. 

The platform provides an innovative approach to process design and performance modeling of waste recovery and recycling plants (MRFs, PRFs, etc.) The application enables performing comprehensive technical and commercial evaluations, builds financial forecasts, and calculates Return-On-Investment for both new and upgrade projects. 

Interview with Luc Mallinger, CEO & Founder of SortFlow Limited.

Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company?

Luc Mallinger: SortFlow is actively working with all types of waste processing facilities, technology providers and industry consultants. 

To complement our products offering, we also provide expert advice and consultancy services to assist waste management companies and recyclers with their new plant process designs and upgrades to their existing facilities. We also perform comprehensive process and benchmarking audits for companies and provide full business case evaluations.

E.E: What’s the news about new products?

L.M: We have just released a new product, SortFlow IO, developed in collaboration with the operator of one of the largest recycling plants in Europe. SortFlow IO enables waste processing plant operators to efficiently record waste material samples. This is a very labor-intensive process that all waste processing plant must go through to be compliant. The first goal of SortFlow IO is to bring productivity gains, this alone provides real operational benefits for using the product. But beyond these efficiency gains, we enable companies to get a lot more out of their data. 

With regards to SortFlow Process, we are working on the next update which we aim to release in early 2022. We typically release 3 to 4 updates a year: a combination of new features and quality of life improvements. We use our customer feedback to target the areas to develop and improve in priority.

Finally, we have recently been awarded an innovation grant from Innovate UK to develop a universal digital twin for waste processing plants. SortFlow AI Mapper will use some elements from our existing process tool, SortFlow Process, and add live plant data from intelligent systems. Waste sorting processes are considered very much ‘black boxes’ today and, in order to optimize them, using more data in a more meaningful way is key. 

E.E: What are the ranges of products?

L.M: With our core products SortFlow Process and SortFlow IO, together with our new development SortFlow AI Mapper we have a family of SaaS applications to fully address the key waste industry problems that companies are facing with their plant operations. 

SortFlow Process provides for a smarter design and modelling for recovery (MRFs) and recycling facilities. SortFlow IO improves the MRF sampling process. And finally, SortFlow AI Mapper helps to optimize the running of recovery and recycling facilities.

E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active?

L.M: We released SortFlow Process in late 2020 and have been growing and iterating on it since then. We have now customers in both Europe and North America. In parallel we do consultancy projects with some of our customers, ranging from process evaluations to supporting the tendering of new infrastructure projects. These are very interesting projects for us as working directly alongside our customers helps us improve our products. 

SortFlow IO is in beta testing with customers. Our development partner will start using it from next summer once their new facility is in operation. Once AI Mapper releases next year, we will have 3 innovative products on the market.

E.E: What can you tell us about market trends?

L.M: The waste & recycling Industry is still a young industry in the sense that recycling really started in the 90s. In Europe and North America, the industry has gone through a permanent wave of consolidation in the last 2 decades, which has led to a professionalization of the sector.

On a technological level, intelligent systems (computer-driven sorting equipment) are more and more prominent in plants, and this opens the door to have more understanding and control over the overall sorting process.

However, we believe some of the most advanced hardware is currently being under-used as it could help track in real-time the performance of a sorting process. For a long time, this was impossible because data was just unobtainable. Now that we have efficient ways of capturing the data, we need to learn how to tame it and put it to good use. This is what we try to address with our solutions.

E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed?

L.M: We like to believe that all our applications are innovative in their own right. We always try to do something different and original.

On the technology front, there are some very innovative hardware companies. We believe this is maybe less the case for software and that’s where we focus our efforts.

If I must choose our most innovative product, I would say that our latest development SortFlow AI Mapper has enormous potential. I believe we have a unique angle with our approach to the digital twin. 

The first phase of development for SortFlow AI Mapper is 12-months long, but the intention is to keep on developing the tool continuously, a development philosophy that in fact applies for all our products.

E.E: What estimations do you have for 2023?

L.M: Throughout 2023 the waste industry will continue to embrace new technologies for digitalization and incorporating Industry 4.0 philosophy for the sector. With the release of AI Mapper, we want to take a step further towards accompanying our customers along this digital journey. Our vision is to help industry professionals worldwide improve productivity and efficiency of their recycling operations through our software technology.