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Hate sorting the recyling? Ask a robot

Osaka University has developed a recycling robot that uses lasers to sort plastics. The project goal is to help lift plastic recycling rates of under 10 percent.


Living in Japan, you have to sort your household garbage into burnable trash, non-burnable trash, recycling, and probably one other category I've forgotten. Each goes to the curb on a different day. I'm tickled to see that Japanese researchers have built a recycling robot that automatically sorts different kinds of plastic by using laser-sensing technology. They call it the first of its kind in the world.

The engineers at Osaka University's Photonics Advanced Research Center and automation firm IDEC, along with Mitsubishi Electric Engineering, say the sorting robot is designed to improve low recycling rates for plastics by automating the sorting process with lasers.

Operating on five different wavelengths, the lasers can recognize six kinds of plastic (even ones indistinguishable to the human eye): polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene (PS), and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS).

The machine is about 5 feet by 6 feet, and houses a robot arm that transfers plastics from an input area to the laser scanning section. A screen displays the kinds of plastics identified and the related reduction in CO2 from recycling. It's unclear how much plastic the device can process per day.

The sorter is currently being used in a trial at stores in Nara and Osaka in Japan. IDEC apparently plans to commercialize a smaller version of the machine for around $55,000.

(Via Bot Junkie)