Robot Separates Recyclables from Other Garbage

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A Finnish waste management company is currently testing a robot that can identify recyclables among other garbage. This technology can help waste management companies cut down on costs and be more efficient.

Helsinki-based ZenRobotics says its intelligent recycling robot correctly identified and sorted half of the recyclable material it was fed during tests at a construction site.

The robot is able to identify metals, concrete, wood and certain types of plastics.

[Harri Valpola, Chief Technology Officer, ZenRobotics]:
"Currently waste is being sorted by all kinds of mechanical means, drums, screens and this kind of technology can not handle the type of waste the robots can do."

The robot uses data from a combination of visual sensors, metal detectors, weight measurements and tactile feedback from a robotic arm to pick out pieces from a mound of debris and sort them.

[Harri Valpola, Chief Technology Officer, ZenRobotics]:
"Our robot has been built using standard industrial robots. There is nothing special in the robots themselves, the specialty is in the brain of the robot. Normally robots can not distinguish shapes and react differently for different kinds of shapes as this one."

At the test site near Helsinki, where recycling and waste management company SITA manages construction waste, the robot is stationed by a conveyor belt where the materials are loaded.

The robot picks up and analyzes material as it goes by.

If the robot identifies the type, it places it in the appropriate bin.

Unrecognized material stays on the belt and ends up being discarded.

The sensors used by the robot include cameras to detect normal light as well as spectrometers, 3D laser scanners and touch sensors.

Spectrometer analysis helps the robot to recognize odd shaped waste such as a piece of wood with nails in it.