According to government figures, the amount of recycled waste that is rejected has increased by 84 per cent in four years. The figures show that there is still a lack of understanding in the public over what is and isn’t recyclable.
Work is being undertaken to solve the problem by educating the public, but now being questioned, is whether AI could be the solution to the problem.
Is AI the future?
Technology companies have been using robots for deconstructing the metals used in devices for a long time. It is said to be a more efficient way of reducing wastage and extracting reusable parts.
Apple uses robots, each with 29 arms, to take apart iPhones, a process it says is efficient at preserving materials. A report by the company found that for every 10,000 units they take apart, up to 190kg of aluminium, 80kg of copper and smaller amounts of platinum, silver, tin and gold, are extracted. The method works in a similar way for recycling.
A Helsinki-based firm, ZenRobotics, believes that they hold the technology that can help boost recycling rates. Their line of robots scanning objects on a recycling belt sort items at a rate of 4,000 per hour.
The system uses scanners to measure an object’s surface structure, shape and material composition to determine if it is suitable for recycling. Customers can also teach the system about new materials, should requirements or legislation change.
The technology is currently used for sorting construction, commercial and industrial materials, where the value of the waste is enough to justify the expense of robotics systems. However, it is possible that similar technology could be used by companies to decrease the amount of rejected recyclables. The technology could also be used by councils to sort rubbish into recyclable and un-recyclable items.
With a cost of between £600,000 and £700,000 for a two-armed system, there are barriers to entry for commercial usage of the technology at present. Nevertheless, the developments do show the direction of the industry and what the field may look like in the future.
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