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Robots with Super-Senses to Sort Waste for Recycling

Samuel  Brøgger

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Robots with Super-Senses to Sort Waste for Recycling

Lightning fast robots with advanced sensor technology are ready to sort out reusable raw material from the trash. Danish Technological Institute estimates that there is a potential to find recyclable resources for billions of euros.

It is now possible to use robots for fully-automated waste sorting and by doing so ensuring that usable resources are being recycled. Resources can be retrieved from any type of waste, but the metal content of electronic waste is particularly interesting.

- Every year we lose assets worth about 250 billion euros in the trash. By utilizing modern technology, we could collect large quantities of valuable resources while simultaneously protecting the environment and the people that sort out trash manually today, says project leader Nils H. Nilsson from Danish Technological Institute.

The waste sorting which takes place today is often performed by a combination of low-technology machines and manual labour. Monotonous, fatiguing and often unsanitary work, which results in only partially usable raw materials with a varying degree of purity.

Over the last couple of years, Danish Technological Institute has through e.g. the project INNOSORT been working on developing a range of new methods for automatic waste sorting. Now, they have come far enough to see a clear light at the end of the junkyard.

- With the results we have achieved so far, we are in no doubt that future waste sorting is automated to a great extent. The robots have become lightning fast, and they have superpowers. Not even Superman's x-ray vision would be able to compete with the many spectra by which the automatic sorting robots analyse the passing waste in fractions of a second, says robot consultant Mikkel Viager from Danish Technological Institute.

Especially when sorting electronic scrap, the potential is easily seen. Every year, 75.000 tons of electronic scrap are gathered from Danish households. This scrap is full of gold. If you fish out e.g. 41 cell phones, you have the same amount of gold that can be found in an entire ton of ore from a goldmine.

In the waste business, people see robot sorting of trash as an opportunity to make reuse of e.g. plastic and metal from household rubbish more profitable than it is today.

- Use of technology is one of the instruments that we apply in waste sorting for an improved working environment and a higher efficiency in our operation – both to achieve more sorted tons of waste per hour, but also to achieve a greater purity and quality in the waste output. Factors that combined contribute to a better economy and a better environment, says project leader Jesper Vange Heinzl from Dansk Affald.

In the video above, you can see the waste sorting robot technology in action and hear more about the many advantages of implementing this new technology (subtitles available in the player).

INNOSORT is funded by Innovation Fund Denmark.