valuable recyclable polymers such as HDPE that are returned back to the recycling loop. Its com- pact size allowed it to be integrated into the existing sorting line despite very tight spaces at the facility. “Ever since ZenRobotics introduced AI-powered

sorting robots to waste management over a decade ago, the demand for them has only grown,” says Mieskonen. “Many MRF operators are making use of the latest technology to improve their efficiency and economics in waste sorting. For example, in a modern MRF dealing with light packaging waste, the purity of a material like clear PET is about 90% when it enters quality control and typically over 98% after AI-based robotic sorting.” Another recycling company using the Fast Picker

is Altem in Strasbourg, France. At a household waste recycling centre sorting around 50,000 tonnes per year of waste, the Fast Picker extracts residual contaminants so that the flow produced at the end of the line is the purest possible coloured PET. Mieskonen says the Fast Picker can be used to

sort light packaging waste made from plastics as well as fibre and/or metal. The robot’s powerful vacuum gripper sorts bottles, lids, cans, tray cups and other packaging made from different colours and polymers including HDPE, LDPE, PET by grade, PP and PS. He says the Fast Picker is optimal for both quality control and residue recovery, with sorting purity adjustable according to user needs, “allowing optimisation between purity and yield”. In addition to household plastic waste, AI-based

sorting is also used for bigger and bulkier plastics from commercial and industrial (C&I) and construc- tion and demolition (C&D) waste. Obviously, this needs stronger robots. ZenRobotics has developed the Heavy Picker, which it says is the only AI-pow- ered robot in the market equipped to deal with heavy waste that comes from sources such as

construction sites. It can be fitted to complement existing operations or set up as a standalone waste sorting system.

“Early adopters such as Finland’s Remeo and Swiss-based Eberhard have recently multiplied their Heavy Picker robot count to build completely new, fully automated next-generation material sorting facilities,” says Mieskonen. AMP Robotics, headquartered in Louisville,

Colorado, USA, says its AI platform, AMP Neuron, “encompasses the largest known real-world dataset of recyclable materials for machine learning, with the ability to classify more than 100 different categories and characteristics of recyclables across single-stream recycling, e-scrap, and construction and demolition debris”. AMP says a combination of scalable accuracy and classification creates a solution for data collection and measurement that MRFs can use to optimise their operations. “Reclaimers, mills, and manufacturers can use to validate that incoming feedstock meets specifications and standards for chemically compliant bales; and brand owners and government stakeholders can use to measure the quality, flow, and recovery of recyclable materials.” This AI platform can identify different plastics

and sort them by colour and clarity, along with different form factors, such as lids, tubs, clamshells and cups. It also recovers other packaging materi- als and has recognition capabilities “to the brand level. AI-guided sortation can deliver scientifically calibrated mixes of material to meet reclaimers’ specifications and those of end-market buyers,” says the company. AMP has deployed six AI-guided robotic sorting systems with Evergreen, one of the largest recy- clers of PET bottles in the USA, at its Ohio process- ing facility. It identifies and sorts green and clear PET, which Evergreen recycles into flakes or pellets. Evergreen is a subsidiary of Greenbridge, a leading

Above: ZenRobotics’ Fast Picker technology operating on the sorting line at Masotina in Italy

Left: An AMP robot at work sorting plastic packaging waste




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