Australia seeks recycling robots to solve plastic film challenges

Sydney, Australia – A robot is being developed in Australia that uses artificial intelligence and computer vision to identify different types of waste, even plastic films, and separate them into separate streams for recycling.

Researchers at the Center for Internet of Things and Telecommunications at the University of Sydney are working with industrial partners to turn a material recovery system into an intelligent MRF.

The researchers received a $ 2.9 million grant from the Australian government for Cooperative Research Centers Projects to develop automation to better sort recyclable materials, especially the grocery bags and cling film that glue the rubbish separators together.

The plastic film or so-called soft plastics can cause mechanical defects and cross-contaminate other recyclable materials such as paper. The waste is often sorted manually – a repetitive and sometimes unsafe task – and then dumped.

The aim of the initiative is to automate the MRF and increase the recycling rate of post-consumer soft plastics by 80 times the level of 2018.

To this end, the researchers are working with waste management companies iQRenew and CurbCycle, technology developers Licella, Mike Ritchie and Associates and Resource Recovery Design to develop the system. Your work is part of a total of $ 7.6 million effort to improve the recycling infrastructure.

“The automated recycling robot automation system will use artificial intelligence and computer vision to learn how to identify different forms of recycling waste, effectively learn how to ‘see’ and ‘sort’ waste, create separate waste streams and purity that maintains soft plastics so they can be recycled, “said researcher Branka Vucetic in a press release.

The system will be integrated into iQRenew’s MRF as part of a soft plastic recovery program that will separate household materials into sacks before putting them in the roadside recycling bin.

“Our project not only leads to soft household plastics ending up in landfills by creating a solution for the collection and sorting of waste with our industrial and research partners, but also creating a sustainable supply chain that takes the garbage from households to end markets brings, ”said Associate Professor Wanli Ouyang in the same press release.

“The robot will identify ‘CurbyTagged’ bags and differentiate plastic sources by separating soft plastics from the fully mixed recyclables,” he added.

Once separated from other waste, the soft plastics are recycled into oils and other chemicals using Licella Holdings’ patented catalytic hydrothermal reactor technology (Cat-HTR brand).

“This highly innovative material flow process can help expand the spectrum of Cat HTR conversion technology to increasingly sophisticated waste streams and highlight the benefits of close industrial and academic collaboration,” said Professor Thomas Maschmeyer in the press release.

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