Some people see robotics as a threat to their jobs, but there are some jobs where robots become indispensable. For example, the correct management of so-called hazardous waste. A hazardous waste is a waste containing one or more substances which, in certain quantities or concentrations, poses a risk to the health of workers and the environment. Some of the hazardous properties of this waste (and the packaging that has contained it) are flammability, toxicity, corrosivity, reactivity and radioactivity.
HAZARDOUS WASTE MANAGEMENT
The main risks of this waste are those that derive from its incorrect management. Some can be incinerated, others buried and there are also those that can be recycled. Managing radioactive waste is not the same as doing the same with toxic organic waste. In each case, the protocol and the necessary security measures will be different and specific, so it will be necessary to adapt their treatment to the protocols established in each case.
In this sense, the improper handling and dumping of hazardous waste can release substances that are harmful to human health or the environment. Therefore, the regulations on waste establish the obligation to manage them properly by identifying them, separating them, storing them correctly and delivering them to companies authorized for their management. Therefore, when it comes to ensuring the protection of people and minimizing environmental risks, robotics is presented as a strategic ally.
The KEY ROLE OF ROBOTICS
The management of this hazardous waste begins, however, in its collection, since it must not be deposited in conventional containers, but must be collected by specialized companies. On the other hand, when managing them, two factors must be taken into account. Firstly, that only people with adequate training for it can do so. This is the best way to prevent them from being managed irresponsibly and to ensure mandatory safety conditions.
Secondly, the management of this hazardous waste must always be done with the material (clothing and equipment to prevent the waste from posing a threat) and the necessary tools. And this is where intelligent robotics plays a leading role, in charge of carrying out dirty, boring and dangerous work (Dirty, Dull and Dangerous) and contributing, thus, to greater recycling and more ecological and efficient waste management.
An optimized management in which PICVISA can help with its technological solution ECOPICK, a robot based on artificial vision and artificial intelligence capable of recognizing, classifying and extracting in an automated way a wide variety of potentially hazardous waste, replacing the tasks usually performed by people. PICVISA will present ECOPICK and other recycling technology solutions at IFAT 2022, the world’s leading trade fair for water, wastewater, waste and raw materials management, which will take place in Munich from May the 30th to June the 3rd .
REDUCE HAZARDOUS WASTE
An improvement in the management of this hazardous waste thanks to robotics would also help citizens of many countries to stop being in danger because, in the last three decades, the trade in hazardous waste has increased by 500%. Every year, between 7,000 and 10,000 million tons of waste are produced in the world. Of these, up to 500 million tons are hazardous waste traded, mainly from industrialized countries to African or South Asian countries, which are used as real landfills.
The correct recycling of this hazardous waste, both in First World and Third World countries, is an opportunity to create wealth and employment. From e-waste, for example, up to 56 different metals can be extracted, almost all of them from the periodic table of elements. But also to guarantee the sustainability of the planet, since one of the bad practices during its processing is to burn the plastic elements to separate the waste, which causes very toxic gases and an increase in the levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, toxic compounds generated during the processing of electronic waste.
TOWARDS INDUSTRY 5.0
In this context, the European project HR Recycler is committed to collaboration between humans, robots and cobots (collaborative robots) for recycling processes that involve some risk, The consolidation of collaborative robotics in industrial environments, including recycling, will allow these tasks to be simplified, safer or automated. Collaborative robotics is, in short, a first step towards the so-called Industry 5.0.
Since the first Industrial Revolution, technology has been fundamental to the progress of humanity. No one doubts, for example, the role played over the centuries by the steam engine, assembly lines or computer science. If in Industry 4.0 the focus has been on automation and the Internet of Things, in Industry 5.0 the focus is on the interaction between humans and machines to improve productivity and efficiency in the environmental industry sector.