Watch This Garbage-Picking Robotic Waste System Sort Through Junk At A Rate Of 1,400 Items An Hour


Finnish startup ZenRobotics is on a mission to make the world a greener place by attempting to solve the global waste problem. 

The European Union alone generates 900 million tons of waste from construction and demolition.

ZenRobotics aims to make the waste sorting process faster and safer. Typically, humans manually sort through materials and in doing so, get exposed to dust and chemicals.

The ZenRobotics Recycler (ZRR) system sorts raw materials like metal, wood, and stone. Eventually, ZenRobotics will recycle mobile electronics. 

We recently had the opportunity to see the ZenRobotics Recycler in action. 

Disclosure: Finnish funding agency Tekes and Finnfacts, a non-profit media service organisation in Finland, paid for my trip to Helsinki to explore the startup scene.  

We first went to the ZenRobotics HQ in Helsinki.

They have these cute little robots sitting on top of the reception desk.

But since they don't break down waste in their actual offices, we took a minibus to Sita. Sita is an environmental waste company in Finland, and was the first to use the ZenRobotics Recycler. ZenRobotics has five customers so far.

For safety reasons, we had to wear these bright, orange vests and hard hats.

They made some of us, namely me, look pretty dorky. But hey, safety first!

About 20,000 tons of waste goes through Sita in Finland.

Here, the Sita staff can monitor what's going in and out of the ZenRobotics Recycler.

It uses multiple sensor inputs in real time, reacts to changes, and learns from its mistakes.

Those sensors include various cameras, 3D scanners, touch-based haptic-feedback sensors, and metal detectors.

All of the waste passes through a feeder and then lands on the conveyor belt for sorting.

The ZRR can distinguish between metal, wood, and stone. It then sorts all of those materials accordingly.

The ZRR Heavy Picker can pick through 1,400 pieces of junk per hour.

Here, you can see the ZRR pick up a piece of wood.

Now, it's tossing that piece of wood into the proper area.

Anything that's not stone, wood, or metal ends up in the reject pile. For now, the rejected materials wind up in landfills.

This is where all of the materials funnel out of the ZRR. The robot sorts the waste correctly 95% of the time.

It all gets dumped into these bins. From here, SITA crushes the stone, burns the wood, and sells metals to scrap yards to make new metals.

But in order to really appreciate the ZRR, you have to see a video of it in action.

That was stone, wood, and metal. But what about gadgets?

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