The recycling robot

In Finland a new solution is being developed to help with recycling efforts. This solution involves the use of robots that can learn and are able to sort through rubbish to find recyclable material. The robots are being developed by the company ZenRobotics. Robots working in factories are nothing new and since the industrial revolution we have become more and more dependant on automation in our factories. A modern manufacturing plant will have robots assembling items endless and with absolute precision.

Waste management is a sector that has typically not used robots as much as others and this is largely because the waste that is being disposed of is unpredictable. Instead many highly skilled workers have had to be employed sort waste and make sure that it is disposed of in the most efficient way. It seems that with the development of smarter robots though that change could be on the horizon.

One area that is being focused on is not household waste but that found while a construction is being made or a building has been demolished. This kind of waste contributes a huge amount to overall waste production of many countries. Currently waste produced in this way has to be sorted by hand or sent off to giant mechanised factories.

ZenRobotics is the Finnish company that is trying to change how this process works. The company was founded in 2007 and employs a team of highly educated scientists who are working on the project. The chief commercial officer of the company is Rainer Rehn and he commented, “It was the unpredictable nature of waste that first drew us to the sector. We believe that waste is the real test of what a robot is capable of, it is a complex sorting process and is a robot can master that then it will be able to do a whole lot else. Creating a robot who will be able to sort demolition waste will have the greatest impact.”

Some might be too quick to judge the small company and say that it wont really be able to accomplish a great deal in the sector. However, it has managed to partner with one of the largest environmental companies in Europe, Suez Environmental. In order to get this partnership it beat off competition from sixteen rivals showing just how competitive development in this area is.

Robots that are currently widely used in the construction industry function by being very well programmed to repeat the same process over and over again with great accuracy. This allows for a very fast construction process. With waste sorting though this process wont work as the nature of waste is that it is too unpredictable for a machine that can only repeat one task. The robots being developed by ZenRobotics work in a very different way. In short, the robots are much more intelligent, they are capable of sensing which materials are what and then using sensors to sort them appropriately, a much more complex process.