ZenRobotics Recycler

One of the bigger problems with modern recycling is the quantity of recyclable material that goes to landfills. By some estimates, up to 80% of waste that potentially could be recycled ends up going to landfills. On the other hand, manually sorting materials is both expensive, tedious, and sometimes dangerous. What’s the world to do?

As with many problems in modern society, the simplest answer in this case is to automate it. A company called ZenRobotics has created the world’s first robotic waste-sorting system, coining it the ZenRobotics Recycler (ZRR). In actuality, it looks just like a robot claw; how exactly does it solve the problem?

More than claw technology, the ZRR specializes in its sensory ability. This robot can identity a variety of materials using several sensors: weight measurement, 3D-scanning, tactile assessment (using touch, likely to sense material properties), and spectrometer analysis (using light and measuring the reflected amount). These comprehensively allow the robot to identify recyclable and non-recyclable items, and separate them accordingly.

The effect is twofold. First, people don’t have to just stand at the side of a conveyor belt, waiting for parts to pass by and make a split second decision on what material it is. Second, the robot removes many hazards that source from manual recycling. In industrial uses, many parts are toxic, sharp, heavy, or dangerous in other ways, like asbestos. A robot isn’t really affected by such hazards, thus removing any danger to people.

At the moment, the robot specifically targets construction debris, because of the high risk associated. However, it’s doubtless that such a robot could also apply to regular recycling efforts as well. Hopefully, the result will be a cleaner, more efficient world.

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