Written by 15:32 AI, Sustainability Views: [tptn_views]

Garbage AI

AI is making unsafe and hazardous rubbish sorting a thing of the past

If, like us, you’re filled with landfill-related guilt as you open the bin, then can now be assuaged thanks to Helsinki-based company, Zen Robotics. Founded in 2017, the company has been developing its robotic sorting machines and marrying this withwith artificial intelligence for autonomous decision making.

We’re not sure about you, but when Digital Daze puts out its recycling on a Sunday night, we can’t help thinking of the sorting factories filled with people sifting through a never-ending stream of glass, paper, cans and empty Dairylea Dunkers containers next to a conveyor belt. 

ZenRobotics, however, are certainly trying to make sure that their products change that scene. It’s looking to “robotize” waste management, and produces two robot options that are industry-specific.

One robot is the “heavy picker” with an intimidating grabbing hand designed to lift bulky objects in the commercial and demolition (C&D) sector – think large chunks of concrete, steel shards and joints and shattered roof tiles. It can lift up to 30kg, and one arm can pick 2,300 pieces an hour. The other is the “fast picker”, which is used for lighter, more domestic-focused waste work, and can pick up to 80 items a minute. 

Photo: Possessed Photography

Both of these are designed to save companies and councils money by maximising the process of recycling and waste recovery. 

Smart waste

ZenRobotics does this with the “ZenBrain” – the software that learns to recognise materials and objects on a waste conveyor belt that can be picked and recycled according to the industry, with versatile software, highly advanced recognition ability and fast, autonomous decision making. The more it picks, the more the Zenbrain learns its target materials as it goes along, identifying waste streams, which helps companies manage the sorting of new materials, and identifying new ones that they can sell or recycle.

One UK company trialing the machine is Grundon. It recently announced how it had installed one of ZenRobotics’ machines at its Cheltenham plant to recover waste materials more efficiently. Initially it is learning to sort plastic bottles in different colours and polymers, such as those that are HDPE (milk bottles) and PET (drink bottles). After the initial trials, the company will then deploy the arm to work on sorting steel and aluminum cans, and paper and cardboard.

At a time when the pressure to recycle and reuse has never been so great, this example of waste could turn out to be treasure indeed.