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Vision-guided robot sorts waste to boost recycling efficiency

30 March, 2021

A London-based start-up called Recycleye has teamed up with the UK's Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) to develop a vision-guided robotic picker that can sort through streams of waste automatically. They say that their retrofittable technology will help recycling centres to boost their sorting capacity and cut the amount of waste sent to landfill.

Recycleye, founded in 2019 by a former Goldman Sachs banker Victor Dewulf, has developed an AI-based vision technology that can sort waste by material, type of object and even brand, with a claimed accuracy of more than 90%. The modular system adapts automatically to changing mixtures of waste. The company has raised £1.2m in seed investment, as well as securing grants from the European Union and Innovate UK.

Manual sorting of waste is becoming increasingly unviable, exposing pickers to health risks, and leading to a high turnover of labour at a time when Brexit is expected to limit the ability to recruit pickers in the UK. The health hazards have been exacerbated by Covid-19, threatening to close recycling plants.

“The deployment of Recycleye’s robotic waste-picker successfully mitigates the risks and costs associated with manual sorting,” argues Matthew Arnold, a software engineer with the company. “In particular, admin costs such as hiring, and training are eliminated. While manual pickers work in shifts, Recycleye’s robotic picker can work continuously without any need for breaks, increasing total throughput of material recovery facilities by up to 110%.”

Arnold reckons that recycling operations can expect a 300% return-on-investment from the automated picking technology compared to manual sorting. “Such yields are providing waste facilities with the additional capacity to increase sorting capabilities, thus reducing the volume of waste being sent to landfill,” he adds.

“Successful automation used to require a very structured approach with consistent parts and controlled presentation,” points out the MTC’s chief automation officer. Mike Wilson. “The application of robots to recycling demonstrates the ability to handle much more varied parts and conditions and undertake mundane, unpleasant tasks which really should be automated.”

Recycleye’s robot-based recycling sorting system will reduce the amount of waste that needs to be sent to landfill

There are plans to install the robotic waste-picker at a UK plant later this year. Recycleye has also set up an office in Paris to give it better access to some of the world’s biggest waste management companies, which are based in France.

RecycleyeTwitter  LinkedIn

MTC:  Twitter   LinkedIn

The vision technology sorts waste into different categories, ready for them to be picked by a robotic arm and processed according to their recycling characteristics

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