Waste is what people do. Staggering mountains of waste of every type. In the European Union alone we generate annually 900 000 000 tons of construction and demolition waste. Novel methods are needed to stop the mountains from piling up, and to reclaim the valuable raw materials that will be otherwise e.g. burned for energy.
ZenRobotics Recycler is a totally new and unique system, both for waste processing and in the field of robotics! So far, only ZenRobotics has succeeded in controlling a robot in waste environment, that is way too complicated and chaotic for standard robot control systems. Robot control in such a demanding environment demands incredibly deep knowledge of sensory fusion, data mining, machine learning, real-time robotics. And that is exactly what ZenRobotics has!
We humans generate billions of tons of waste on Earth, year on year. Thanks to the well-functioning waste logistics, the ordinary citizen does not usually fathom the scale of the problem. 98 % of all products purchased end up in the landfill 6 months after purchase [Paul Hawken, Natural Capitalism, (1999)]. In practice, everything the factories of the world produce will be waste in a couple of months’ time. The need to stop this development creates an unprecedented market opportunity.
A negligible amount of the world’s waste is sorted in large mechanised processing plants. The sorting facilities of today have their limitations, including the large investment need, complex facilities, and limited ability to separate recyclable fractions. In construction and demolition waste processing the amount reclaimed as raw material is often in reality modest. This in spite of a huge number of people being employed in manual sorting, picking usable raw materials off conveyors.
Manual sorting however has many problems, including exposure to dust, microbes, chemicals, risk of injury, problems in motivation, and the high price and inefficiency of the process. Manual sorting does not seem to have any future anymore. In the manual sorting of typical waste, only a small amount reclaimed.
The legislation in many countries nowadays decree a so-called waste hierarchy, which states that the primary goal is to prevent the generation of waste. Barring prevention, the waste should be repurposed as raw material, meaning recycled. Thermal recycling, meaning burning, is only the third option. The last and worst choice is to take the waste to a landfill. As the legislation stipulates ever increasing recycling rates, new technologies are required to make this possible. Robots can make a massive impact in increasing raw material recovery!
Raw materials shortage
The problem is not only a regulatory one. The raw materials are simply running out due to insufficient recycling, a fact already evident in their availability and price. In concrete terms, for example manganese, tungsten, and chrome are already running out. It is no longer sensible to bury or destroy expensive raw materials, a practice still prevalent in most places.