- Researchers create robots to classify soft plastics
- Technology may benefit the recycling industry
Engineering researchers are developing unique ways to increase the recycling of soft plastics by creating smart robots that can identify, classify, and separate different types of recyclable waste.
Despite recent improvements in plastic recycling, landfill is becoming an increasingly problematic issue. Soft plastics such as wraps and plastic bags are the main cause of the problem, with 94% landfilled in 2016-17.
There is no proper recycling method because soft plastics are easily caught in waste sorting machines, leading to mechanical failure and contamination of other recyclable materials such as paper. Due to this problem, current recycling methods rely on manual sorting of soft plastics, which is often a repetitive and unsafe task.
Working with industry partners as part of a federal joint research center project grant, researchers at the University of Sydney’s Internet of Things (IoT) and Telecommunications Centers will increase the recycling of soft plastics by creating smarts. We are developing our own method. , An automatic robot system that uses AI to classify recyclable waste.
The team includes Professor Blanca Vucetic, Professor Yonghui Li, Associate Professor Wanli Ouyang, Dr. Wanchun Liu, and Senior Technical Officer Dawei Tan of the Faculty of Electrical and Information Engineering.
“Recycling robot automation systems use artificial intelligence and computer vision to learn how to identify different forms of recycled waste, effectively learn how to” see “and” classify “waste, and separate. Creates a stream of waste and maintains the purity of soft plastics. It can be recycled, “says Professor Franka Vucetic, an IoT expert.
“Soft plastics have long contributed to landfills and have long been a challenge for the circular economy and waste management sector due to the lack of proper and safe sorting methods. Using the latest IoT technology, this has been a challenge. We have created a custom robot that solves the problem, “says Professor Li Yonghui.
“Australia generated 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste, including soft plastics, between 2018 and 2019. Only 9% were sent for recycling and 84% were sent to landfills. We aim to significantly switch between these percentages by developing a solution that can recycle most of the soft plastic waste, “says Dr. Wanchun Liu.
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.
“Soft plastics have long been a challenge for the circular economy and the waste management sector due to their significant contribution to landfills and the lack of proper and safe sorting methods.”
— — Professor Lee Yonghui, Faculty of Electrical and Information Engineering
The system will be integrated into IQ Renew’s material recovery facility as part of CurbCycle’s soft plastic recovery program. This is an Australian initiative to collect recyclable items at home and then place them in curbside recycling bins.
“Our project goes beyond just dumping soft household plastics into landfills. We bring waste from homes to the final market by working with industry and research partners to create waste collection and separation solutions. We are also creating a sustainable supply chain, “said Associate Professor Wanli Ouyang.
“The robot identifies the’Curby Tagged’bag, distinguishes the source of the plastic, and separates the soft plastic from the fully mixed, recyclable one,” he said.
After being separated from other waste, the soft plastic is advanced to petroleum and other valuable chemicals using the patented Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor Technology (Cat-HTR ™) developed by Resera Holdings. It is used for various purposes such as recycling. Licella was founded by Professor Thomas Maschmeyer of the Faculty of Science and Dr. Len Humphreys, CEO of Licella, and has been with the support of the University of Sydney for 14 years.
“This highly innovative material handling process extends the scope of Cat-HTR conversion technology to help include increasingly difficult waste flows, emphasizing the benefits of close industrial and academic collaboration. “I will,” said Professor Maschmeyer.
The researcher was awarded $ 2,999,220 as part of the Australian Federal Government’s CRC-P grant.
Professor Thomas Maschmeyer of the University’s School of Chemistry holds the position of Principal Technology Consultant at Licella.
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