July 06, 2012      

Sustainable recycling is reaching a world-wide first as Belgian waste management company, Containers Maes, will install a waste sorting system in its facility and run it on solar power. ZenRobotics is a Finnish clean tech company, based out of Helsinki. The ZenRobotics Recycler is intended to revolutionize the recycling process by utilizing cognitive technology to sort recyclables from a waste stream. The complete value of the order exceeds 1 million euros.

CLEAN TECHNICA?Called the ZenRobotics Brain, the system was inspired by the cerebellum, which is responsible for the timing and coordination of movements. The ZenRobotics Brain uses at least six different types of sensory devices to provide the recycling system?s off-the-shelf robotic arms with a real-time stream of information that enables high-precision sorting.That includes several different kinds of cameras as well as, 3-D scanners, tactile feedback, and metal detectors.The ZenRobotics Brain is also capable of responding to changes as well as ?learning? from its mistakes.

The solar solution

One obstacle standing in the way of long-term sustainability for the bulk recycling industry is its heavy reliance on fossil-fueled vehicles and machinery. The ZenRobotics Recycler, for example, involves an energy-sucking conveyor belt in addition to the energy required for running the robotic sorting arms and the controlling system.

The system does cut down on fuel use related to waste hauling, though. Designed to handle construction debris, the ZenRobotics Recycler is transportable and can be installed temporarily on site, eliminating the need to truck unsorted waste to a central facility.

The real ?game-changer,? as Containers Maes puts it, is combining the recycling system with solar power and other forms of renewable energy.

Here in the U.S., the gigantic waste disposal and recycling company Waste Management has also been transitioning to alternative energy and energy efficient technology, including its ?BigBelly? solar powered trash compactor and various landfill gas initiatives.