About the Project
The purpose of the project was to contribute to more accurate and faster sorting of collected packaging. The goal is to send at least 60% more packaging for recycling compared to the current situation and avoid burning them.
In Estonia, as an example, the bulk of waste is manually sorted. This is also how the majority of smaller sorting centers in Europe work. When sorting by hand, it is enough to pick out about half of what is being sorted. The focus is on larger pieces or on items that can be sold and give more value.
Leanest has designed and developed a sorting robot as a replacement for one person on the existing manual sorting lines of the collected packages. The first tests gave the result, that with the developed robotic arm operating on AI, it is possible to sort 60% more materials, which increases recycling and reduces waste incineration.
This project was being supported by EU European Regional Development Fund by 125 354 euros.
In the sorting mill the waste on the conveyor belt is being scanned via cameras, and information is processed by deep learning algorithms that perform a categorization for sorting decisions – different items on the conveyer belt will be addressed to the appropriate sorting or recycling method, consequently ensuring efficient and sustainable waste management. In our development project we have trained the AI algorithms to detect different types of plastic waste on the conveyor belt. Our focus in the AI training process was on reusable plastic and the aim to collect from the belt plastic items that were left unsorted in the manual sorting phase – as when sorting by hand, it is enough to pick out only about half of what is being sorted. Artificial Intelligence can contribute significantly to waste management, especially in regard to automated waste sorting at waste collecting and sorting mills and one major bottleneck in the process of waste management can be solved.
In addition to the automated sorting decision making process also AI-operated robots can efficiently sort and lift the items instead of human labor. Robots and relevant technology can pull off the sorted items from the belt for further processing. Essentially, AI speeds up the whole process.
Leanest waste sorting robot performs a lift with 1,8 seconds and potentially 33 lifts in a minute. Due to the small size of the robot and favorable unit price compared to the similar products on the market, it is possible to install several robotic arms on the same sorting conveyor line, depending on the sorting need of the types of materials.