Each year, around 90 million tonnes of recyclable materials are sent to landfill.
Much of this has to do with the challenges facing the recycling industry, including plastic contamination. For recycling plants, purity is essential. Poorly discarded items (for example, a non-recyclable product thrown into a recycling bin) or items with food scraps stuck on them are enough to contaminate the plastic recycling stream in a recycling facility. China’s 2018 import ban on foreign plastics led to the proliferation of these substandard recyclables in landfills, especially since they often do not reach the high purity levels required for resale on European markets.
This is where AI-based waste sorting comes in.
Materials recovery facilities (MRF) equipped with robotic recycling technology can help ensure cleaner plastic flows, allowing operators to deliver on the promise of high purity recyclables.
As such, recycling robots can work twice as fast as humans and are trained to identify different colors, textures, shapes and sizes of plastic waste, ranging from household waste to construction and demolition waste and industrial waste. , which makes sorting more precise and efficient. An example would be the fact that a modern recovery facility handling lightweight packaging is configured to ensure 90% purity in its production of clear PET, a number that jumps to 98% after robotic sorting.
With Covid-19 exacerbating the health and safety concerns for manual collectors and plastic waste linked to the pandemic, the continued adoption of automation technology for waste sorting in FRMs seems to be a given.
ZenRobotics offers two bespoke AI-powered picking solutions, one fast and one heavy.
The Fast Picker, designed to replace manual picking in FRMs, can be used to sort light packaging waste based on plastic, fibers or metals. It can handle hybrid packaging such as bottles, lids, cans or trays made from a compound of different plastics such as HDPE, LDPE, PP or PS, thus bypassing the problems of recycling the materials. mixed materials. The application ensures optimum plastic purity and can be trained to remove contaminants such as herbicide cans, silicone cartridges or non-stick ketchup bottles from the plastic stream. Due to its compact size, ZenRobotics Fast Picker can be fully integrated into existing MRF picking stations and sorting lines without further modification.
The Heavy Picker, intended for the treatment of heavy and bulky industrial waste, can also be integrated into the perimeter of existing MRF recycling channels but can also be installed on site as an autonomous waste sorting unit. Used to sort plastic, wood and metal, the ZenRobotics Heavy Picker eliminates the need for pre-shredding or sorting.
With the market for critical raw materials set to explode in the coming years, operators are already strengthening FRMs with AI-based sorting technologies to achieve higher material recovery rates. As such, waste automation technology market leaders such as ZenRobotics are expected to not only improve overall recyclability, but also contribute to circular economy models.