Intelligent robotic sorting - Trends-Tendances sur PC

Intelligent robotic sorting – Trends-Tendances sur PC

Having become a crucial industrial issue from the perspective of sustainability and recycling channels, sorting waste is a very demanding and expensive job due to its manual nature. A young Belgian and his English partner have developed an efficient automatic process based on artificial intelligence.

The challenge of recycling

Blue bags, voluntary drop-off points for, among other things, organic waste, glass bubbles, paper and cardboard collections: we have been resolutely committed to recycling for years. In 2021, Fost Plus recycled 29.7 kg of glass, 16.6 kg of paper and cardboard packaging and 16.4 kg of PMC materials per inhabitant in Belgium. So many future raw materials for specialized industries. The figures become dizzying if you extrapolate them to the planet. In this process, and in particular for plastics, separating the value-added products according to their composition…

Blue bags, voluntary drop-off points for, among other things, organic waste, glass bubbles, paper and cardboard collections: we have been resolutely committed to recycling for years. In 2021, Fost Plus recycled 29.7 kg of glass, 16.6 kg of paper and cardboard packaging and 16.4 kg of PMC materials per inhabitant in Belgium. So many future raw materials for specialized industries. The figures become dizzying if you extrapolate them to the planet. In this process, and especially for plastics, separating value-added products according to their composition and destination is essential. A step today very expensive and quite slow because it is essentially manual. Last year, we told you about Neurogreen, a Walloon start-up, and its selective sorting islands that recognize waste and place it directly in the ad hoc bin. A solution based on optical recognition and artificial intelligence. Recycleye, a British start-up founded by Peter Hedley and our compatriot Victor Dewulf, has developed a more ambitious solution that acts downstream of waste collection. A story which begins in the garage of Peter’s parents and which is based on the skills of the two friends (master’s degree in environmental engineering for our compatriot, computer science for the Briton) and on Peter’s final dissertation devoted to the automation of waste sorting using computer vision. The solution developed by Dewulf and Hedley is based on two systems that can be used together or separately. Vision uses a mobile phone-quality camera installed above conveyor belts in sorting centres. Using artificial intelligence and learning algorithms, it allows very thorough identification of products to be recycled. It is able to detect 28 different classes of materials and differentiates colors, shapes, the presence or absence of packaging and even certain brands. Robotics is a six-axis robotic arm that acts based on information received from Vision. Designed by the two partners and built by the Japanese company Fanuc, it is capable of taking 55 samples per minute and placing them in the correct bin. That’s a good fifteen more than manual sorting and without the slightest fatigue. At the end of June, Peter Hedley and Victor Dewulf were awarded the “Young Inventors of the Year” prize by the European Patent Office. A new reward (20,000 euros) reserved for entrepreneurs up to 30 years old who develop solutions contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Three years after its creation, Recycleye is already working with major European names active in recycling and waste such as Veolia, Total Energies, Biffa and Re-Gen.

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