Circular Economy amid the pandemic – How AI-powered sorting robotics lead to better safety and recovery

Will the circular economy advance during the COVID-19 pandemic? Find out how AI and waste sorting robot technologies can boost recovery, improve cost efficiency and address health concerns. 

The world is experiencing unprecedented times as the coronavirus pandemic is picking up new speed across the globe. As countries are battling the ongoing health crisis, the global transition to a circular economy is also becoming more pressing. Plastic pollution levels, for example, have reportedly risen due to the increased use of single-use sanitary products needed to keep people safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Governments around the world are actively implementing measures to nudge industries and consumers toward a smarter use of valuable raw materials. The European Union, for example, recently introduced a new tax on plastic waste starting January 2021 as part of the bloc’s €750 bn COVID-19 recovery package. 

AI, Robots and digitalization for recovery 

Digitalization is taking a major leap across industries during the pandemic — and is also the answer to speeding up the circular economy transition.

In the waste and recycling industry, the use of artificial intelligence and robotic technologies is fast becoming a new industrial standard. AI-powered sorting robots allow material recovery facilities (MRFs) to capture valuable clean materials more efficiently from the waste stream and thereby significantly raise recycling rates. The robots create a more structured and predictable sorting environment which helps to mitigate the health and safety risks associated with manual sorting, and thereby create safer working conditions through increased social distancing possibilities. 

A prime example of this is Finnish environmental management company Remeo’s recent investment into a highly advanced and fully automated waste sorting facility equipped with ZenRobotics’ AI-powered robots. AI-based robots enable Remeo to recover valuable pure materials from both commercial and industrial (C&I) waste and construction and demolition (C&D) waste at higher scale and volume than before: the future annual processing capacity of the facility will be 120,000 tonnes of construction waste and 60,000 tonnes of energy waste. Upon its completion in 2021, the new facility will cover over 30 percent of all recycling needs in the Helsinki capital region and raise the recycling rate in Finland. For more detailed information about the unique facility project, click here.

A silver lining in every crisis

While countries are still grappling with the uncertain health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is also a golden opportunity to use the current leap in digitalization, AI and robotics to advance rather than reverse the circular economy while also creating safer operating environments in the post-pandemic world.

Click here to learn more about how ZenRobotics’ AI and robotic solutions enable our customers to become circular economy leaders, meet new health and safety requirements and capture valuable pure materials from different waste streams from lightweight packaging waste to bulky was such as C&D waste for increased recovery rates and profitability.