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Technology, the best ally in waste management

by | Mar 24, 2022 | Waste recycling | 0 comments

The management of the more than 2,100 million tons of waste that are generated annually around the world is one of the great challenges of our society. The volume of waste has accelerated in recent decades, especially plastic waste, but there is not yet an adequate response to the problem. Globally, only 16% (323 million tons) of the waste generated is recycled. 

The recycling rate of this waste varies ostensibly between countries, from 45% of the European Union average to 9.6% of an emerging country such as Mexico. This percentage difference in recycling responds to the maturity of the respective waste collection, classification and recycling systems and the level of technification of the different processes in order to reduce costs, automate tasks and even generate economic value.   

 

MULTIMARKET TECHNOLOGY

The problem of waste is very different depending on where do you look in the map. The solutions must be too. In this sense, our technology adapts to any international market, whether it is emerging or already developed, with the aim of achieving a more streamlined, technical and automated waste management that improves the sustainability of an environmentally threatened planet. 

While in the underdeveloped countries waste is handled in a dangerous way for people and the environment, some emerging countries, such as Brazil, Turkey or Mexico, have already understood that managing, classifying and recycling are three magic words and that the technification of processes could be optimized, for example, with optical separators that identify recoverable materials in waste, especially plastic and glass.

In this sense, PICVISA offers cutting-edge solutions in the optical separator market to automate recycling plants with two products: ECOGLASS (glass, municipal solid waste, minerals and metals) and ECOPACK (plastics, film, paper, cardboard and waste depending on their chemical composition, shapes and colors). Two technological solutions that help sorting plants to be more competitive, reducing their costs and improving their productivity. 

 

EUROPE, EXAMPLE IN RECYCLING

The situation in Europe, a highly developed market, is different. Although each European generates approximately half a ton of household waste per year, the European Union has the most advanced recycling legislation in the world. Thus, although each country of the European Union manages its waste in a different way, they all share the same goal: to recycle 55% of urban waste by 2025.

For example, Germany, which has one of the highest recycling rates in Europe, is committed to the minimization of waste (prohibition of plastic bags) and the separation of glass, as in Ireland and Switzerland, in three different containers according to their color and typology. The reason is simple: colored glass (green or brown, for example) cannot be transparent again after its recycling process.   

Germany, like Finland, has another model for recycling beverage packaging: the Deposit, Return and Return (SDDR) system. Citizens pay a small tax (a few cents) when buying bottles and cans and only recover the money if they deposit the containers in good condition in machines located in supermarkets. Other countries, such as Belgium, Ireland or Switzerland, use special bags for recycling.  Thanks to these practices, European waste management has improved in recent years.

However, there is still room for improvement to increase the percentage of waste that is recycled or reused. And here innovation comes into play again. Only new technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT) or big data will facilitate the paradigm shift and the shift towards a more circular economy. 

 

ECONOMY AND SUSTAINABILITY

Recycling is a matter of sustainability, but also of economy. For example, thanks to artificial intelligence, PICVISA’s ECOPICK robot is able to automatically recognize, classify and extract a wide variety of recoverable materials in the flow of rejects driven to the cabin through a conveyor belt, replacing the tasks usually performed by a manual sorter. ECOPICK can also be used for the quality control of selected products to achieve purity indices that increase their market value.

Without technologies like these, European goals of increasing the recycling rate to 60% (2030) and 65% (2035) seem impossible. Reports such as the Transparency Market Research (TMR) of 2020 agree on the importance of betting on innovation in the waste management sector and its subsequent recycling. In short, what we do decisively in our company, which treasures years of knowledge in intelligent robotics and optical solutions applied to recycling.

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