UK First For AI Robotic Sorting Technology Investment

UK industrial and commercial waste firm, Green Recycling, has announced the purchase of AI robotic sorting technology to increase recovery of recyclables – the first investment in such technology in the UK, the company claims.

The Max-AI™ AQC (Autonomous Quality Control) aims to increase recovery of recyclables without adding additional manual labour at the company’s commercial and commingled dry recyclables MRF in Maldon, Essex.

This new technology has already been successfully installed in three US MRFs and Green Recycling’s Max-AI AQC will be operational in early 2018.

Launched in 2017 by Oregon-based Bulk Handling Systems (BHS), the Max-AI AQC incorporates an AI-powered vision system to identify recyclables and make decisions, along with a robotic sorter that picks items and places them into chutes.

The artificial neural network technology mirrors the neural framework of the human brain to identify recyclables in a similar manner to a person. When the recyclables have been identified by the vision system, a robotic sorter then does the picking.

“We believe that this technology will revolutionise MRF operations and we’re excited to be the first to introduce it here in the UK”

At Green Recycling’s facility, equipment is used to open bags, collect plastic film, OCC, and segregate material using screen and air separation technologies.

The Max-AI AQC follows the aforementioned equipment, working on the recovery line to capture card, news and pams, HDPE natural, PET bottles and wood.

The Max-AI AQC intelligent vision system is trained using a process called deep learning and can immediately identify these various recyclables, something that simply cannot be achieved using most widely available recycling technologies.

Max-AI AQC is also capable of making various decisions including prioritising the picking order based on size, value and location, and then directing the robotic sorter to pick and place the recovered end products into chutes.

The Max-AI AQC is capable of making approximately 65 picks per minute, a productivity rate that would require Green Recycling to source and employ staff in two manual sorting positions, employment spaces that are difficult to fill due to the nature of the job itself. When the new kit is in place, Green Recycling will be able to run this section of the recovery line with no human sorting at all.

Rob Smith, managing director at Green Recycling, comments: “We believe that this technology will revolutionise MRF operations and we’re excited to be the first to introduce it here in the UK. Our aim is to deliver a flexible and efficient recycling process to our customers and we’re always on the lookout for the latest technology to further automate and improve our process.

“We believe we have found it with Max-AI AQC. Not only is the technology capable of sorting up to six different end fractions in one location, but it is also adjustable should the material or markets change, and will deliver significant operational improvements. We can’t wait to put Max to work!”

Jamie Smith, general manager at Green Recycling, added: “With the addition of Max-AI to our team not only will we significantly improve our recycling efficiency, but, more importantly, we will shift job specification to a technology based outlook.

“While the perception would be to replace human sorting, here at Green Recycling it will actually be creating opportunity with a new technology-based position for a brand new member of staff.”

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