Veolia invests in AI-driven robotic arm to increase recycling



Veolia has unveiled a new robotic arm at its Southwark Integrated Waste Management Facility (IWMF) to optimise operations and make recycling more effective.

The UK resource management company and AI robotics business Recycleye have installed an AI-driven robotic arm that Veolia said is as “accurate as the human eye”.

The robot is being used at Veolia Southwark IWMF to pick out paper, card, mixed plastics and beverage cartons, which often contain some aluminium layers, from the aluminium line leaving just pure aluminium items for recycling.

The robot features a camera, a 6-axis robotic arm, a pneumatics system and a compute box.

It “picks” the items using compressed air and a silicon gripper. Once the item is secured, the robot twists to face the correct sorting bin location and blows the item off the gripper and into the bin.

The robot will pick between 35 and 50 items per minute, Veolia said. As the objects pass along the belt, they are scanned and recorded, and the data is uploaded to the cloud.

The robot is being used at Veolia Southwark IWMF to pick out paper, card, mixed plastics and beverage cartons.

As part of its new strategic plan GreenUP, Veolia said it will use this data to make informed decisions to run the facility at maximum efficiency and monitor seasonal changes in waste composition.

Commenting on the robotic arm, Tim Duret, Director of Sustainable Technology at Veolia, said: “As the UK prepares for the implementation of stronger legislation, such as Extended Producer Responsibility and Simpler Recycling, Veolia embraces this once-in-a-generation opportunity to integrate new technologies in our UK infrastructure to further optimise our recycling processes.

“The data presented to us by the robot will give us a better understanding of common materials that are found in the wrong waste streams and how to prevent this, making sure our recycling is as effective as possible.

“Combining innovation and technology is a major aspect of Veolia’s current operations and future plans, as set in our new GreenUp strategic plan, and we will continue to take a proactive route to change through new improvements and design.”

The project is supported by The Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE), which represents manufacturers of food and drink cartons in the UK and Europe.

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