Veolia unveils AI-powered robotic arm that streamlines recycling efficiency

Veolia has unveiled the installation of a robotic arm to streamline the picking process at its Southwark integrated waste management facility (IWMF). The robotic arm picks out card, paper, mixed plastics, and beverage cartons from the IWMF’s aluminium line.
Veolia unveils AI-powered robotic arm that streamlines recycling efficiency
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Veolia has unveiled the installation of a robotic arm to streamline the picking process at its Southwark integrated waste management facility (IWMF). With the upcoming implementation of stronger legislation and the Simpler Recycling scheme, the Director of sustainable technology at Veolia, Tim Duret, said that Veolia “embraces this once in a generation opportunity to integrate new technologies in our UK infrastructure to further optimise our recycling processes.”

The robotic arm, a project created in partnership with Recycleye and supported by the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE), has been designed to pick out card, paper, mixed plastics, and beverage cartons from the IWMF’s aluminium line. Veolia said the device can pick up 35-50 items per minute. 

An attached camera uses AI technology to scan the objects as they pass along the belt. The technology then uploads the information collected to Veolia’s data cloud. Mr Duret added: “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.”

Recycleye, an environmental engineering company, assisted Veolia on the project. They specialise in “ground-breaking” AI robotics for innovative waste and materials management. Their CEO, Victor Dewulf, said that this project indicates the “strength of AI” to sort packaging containing liquids, which has been a “challenge” to existing technology. 

He added: “This is a clear example of robotic sorting supporting greater circularity in packaging, which needs to increase in the context of EPR and Simpler Recycling in the UK.”

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