Reports have shown that more than $200 billion of recyclable materials is not recovered annually. The cost and efficiency of identifying and sorting recycling materials, such as LCD screens, plastics, metals, etc., have been significant issues for efficient recycling.
Moreover, several international quality standards have been meted out to waste industries to ensure that imported recyclable materials are devoid of contamination. This has caused recycling industries to search for cost-effective ways to satisfy these requirements.
Robotic recycling allows recycling industries to obtain more recyclable materials from waste streams. This provides them with a greater volume of high-purity secondary resources.
Having human workers sort material is physically and economically demanding. It also poses safety risks, and human errors are inescapable.
However, when humans and recycling robots recycle, workforce stability is guaranteed, bolsters economic stability.
What Is A Circular Economy?
The circular economy is a production and consumption framework that entails leasing, reusing, repairing, sharing, reshaping, and recycling used materials and products as long as they can serve their purpose. See circular economy as a model that extends the life cycle of products.
Practically, a circular economy aims to mitigate waste to a minimum. Such that when the usefulness of a product starts to decline, its materials are kept within the economy wherever possible. These materials can be used again and again, thereby retaining their usefulness.
A circular economy guarantees sustainable growth over time. This is because it bolsters the optimization of resources, mitigates unnecessary consumption of raw materials, and recovers waste by recycling to create a new product.
Another aim of the circular economy is to ensure the constant availability of material resources by upholding its basic principles: to reduce, reuse and recycle.
As a result, a circular economy establishes a more efficient and sustainable production model in the long run. A circular economy can be likened to nature, where everything that has value is used, and waste becomes a new resource. This enforces the balance between progress and sustainability.
Importance Of Recycling Robots In A Circular Economy?
The advent of recycling robots brought about significant changes in recycling. Initially, not all recyclable materials could be handled by human workers. Materials such as mercury and other gases, as well as sharp-edged parts, made it unsafe for human workers to dismantle LCD screens and monitors.
This served as a limitation to a sustainable circular economy because not all the valuable materials from products like LCDs could be recovered and recycled for reuse.
To deal with this issue and mitigate the risks, companies came up with the brilliant initiative of building recycling robots that could perform recycling tasks that were considered harmful to human workers. A notable example is the KUKA KR QUANTEC industrial robot, an automated application developed by Votechnik, an Irish technology company.
The cell of the KUKA KR QUANTEC extracts poisonous gases and removes harmful elements such as fluorescent tubes and screens. Recycling robots can safely handle the recycling of these materials. Hence, the usability of these materials is guaranteed, and the principles of a circular economy are upheld.
LCD televisions are among the enormous environmental pollutants. Annually, about 200 million TVs are sold. This implies that enormous waste streams are generated, and this waste requires efficient, cost-effective, and safe disposal.
Based on environmental analysis, LCD devices and flat-screen TVs contain “hidden” greenhouse gases such as nitrogen trifluoride. These gases can accelerate global warming, which is a sufficient reason to stop using them.
However, this is not the case. There is ever-growing consumer demand for these LCD devices, which means that more and more of these gases must be produced and used. As a result, the waste stream keeps rising, and the production cost is also increased.
When recycling robots handle the recycling of these devices, these poisonous gases can be safely recovered, recycled, and reused. Hence, more LCD devices and flat-screen TVs can be produced without producing these gases. As a result, production costs are reduced, and valuable materials can be continuously used.
Recycling robots aim to strengthen and improve a sustainable circular economy. These recycling robots are programmed to handle the electrical waste.
A sustainable circular economy depends on recycled electronic consumer goods. But recycling electronic waste can inflict injuries on human workers. For this reason, there must be optimal applications of robotics and automation.
To ensure active participation in recycling, the processes involved must be streamlined. This implies that automation and intelligent robots must be used to ensure recycling is effective, efficient, and clean.
This way, more improvements are introduced into the process. AI can use advanced vision systems to distinguish between different materials.
This does not mean human workers will be left entirely out of recycling. Instead, recycling robots and human workers can work together to recycle materials. Robots can handle recycling aspects that entail poisonous gases and harmful objects. At the same time, areas that require human expertise can be done by human workers.
This way, there would be reduced exploitation and increased safety in the recycling sector. Even though the number of initial job positions for human workers may be reduced, recycling robots will generate more jobs in other areas, such as maintenance, engineering, and supervision.
As several countries are still struggling with the challenging economic conditions caused by the covid-19 pandemic, there is an excellent opportunity for countries to utilize the current advancements in artificial intelligence, digitalization, and robotics to advance the circular economy and simultaneously create a safer environment in the post-pandemic era.
Artificial intelligence and robotic technology have become industry standards in the recycling industry. AI-driven robots ensure the complete and efficient recovery of valuable materials from waste streams at the Material Recovery Facilities.
The amount of waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) generated yearly is rising. Therefore, it is crucial to develop circular economy solutions that ensure the reuse and recycling of materials, particularly electronic materials.
These solutions must also reduce the amount of waste disposed of at landfills.