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 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 modest. This in spite of a huge number of people being employed in manual sorting, picking usable raw materials off conveyors even in Europe.
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. In the manual sorting of typical waste, only a couple of percent is reclaimed. An efficiency of 10 % in mixed-waste manual processing is an excellent achievement. Not to mention that EU regulation from 1975 in practice forbids manual sorting of waste.
The EU directives 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. The EU legislation stipulates that by 2015 50 % of household waste must be reclaimed. Further, e.g. the quantity of “biodegradable municipal solid waste” disposed of by landfilling must be reduced to 75% of 1995 baseline levels by 2006, 50% by 2009, and to 35% of the baseline levels by 2016. It should not take long after this to prohibit the waste entering landfills altogether.
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 expensive raw material in landfill, a practice still prevalent in most places.