7 August 2018 by Elizabeth Slow

Viridor invests in Max-AI sorting robot

Viridor has invested £445,000 in upgrades to its Skelmersdale plastics reprocessing facility, West Lancashire, which includes the addition of a Max-AI AQC robotic sorter.

The waste management firm is one of the first in the UK to adopt the technology, which it said will help purify PET plastics, recovering metals and other plastic types and removing contamination. It will become operational later this year.

The BHS robotic vision system, Max-AI

Launched last year  by Oregon-based Bulk Handling Systems (BHS), the Max-AI AQC incorporates an AI-powered vision system to identify recyclables and make decisions, along with a robotic sorter that picks items and places them into chutes (see letsrecycle.com story).

According to BHS, the neural network technology “mirrors the framework of the brain to identify recyclables in a similar manner to a person”.

Unlike optical sorters, which detect material by type or color, the advanced AI can differentiate between like material compositions and make up to six separate sorts in one location. When the recyclables have been identified by the vision system, the robotic sorter then does the picking, BHS says.

Ongoing investment

Commenting on the investment, Viridor’s head of recycling assets (polymers & paper), Jez Blake, said: “The addition of the robotic sorter is part of an ongoing Viridor investment in technology which adds new levels of sophistication to our recycling and reprocessing capability.

“The new technology is in line with the Viridor focus on providing quality recycling material for the manufacturing process. The consistent focus on quality and innovation is crucial to ensuring recycling material is favoured over virgin plastic.”

The AI detects recyclables using a camera, unlike traditional recycling equipment that requires sensors. The Max-AI AQC is capable of making approximately 65 picks per minute, BHS reports, a productivity rate equal to two manual sorting positions.

Viridor is one of the leading reprocessors of domestic plastics in the UK, working in partnership with more than 150 local authority and corporate clients with 32,000 customers across the UK.

“The plant runs nearly all day, and Max is able to sort at a consistently fast pace all day, handling the long hours with ease.”


Steve Almond
BHS

“Max is a perfect fit for Viridor’s plastics reprocessing facility,” said BHS UK sales manager Steve Almond.

“The plant runs nearly all day, and Max is able to sort at a consistently fast pace all day, handling the long hours with ease. We are appreciative of this investment from Viridor and applaud the company’s commitment towards a circular economy – I have no doubt that Max will deliver a productive and profitable recycling solution,” he said.

Skelmersdale

The Viridor plastics facility in Skelmersdale recycles 3,000 tonnes of UK post-consumer plastic bottles a month into high-value raw materials. The primary recyclate streams are PET and HDPE, which are of sufficient quality to be used in the most demanding applications as direct replacements for virgin polymer.

The news follows the announcement at the end of last year, that commercial and industrial waste business, Green Recycling, had become the first company in the UK to invest in Max (see letsrecycle.com story). The Green Recycling robot is also expected to be fully operational later this year.


A video of a Max robot in action at a materials recycling facility, operated by Penn Waste, in York, Pennsylvania


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