Recycling Technologies based on AI

What if a machine could sort electronic waste in the blink of an eye? What if it was soon possible? In collaboration with researchers from ID Lab (UAntwerpen), scientists are currently developing software to automatically recognize small devices such as mobile phones, household appliances, radios, computers and DVD players in our mountain of waste. The next step will be sorting by category. How is it possible? Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI).

how can artificial intelligence help with the mountain of 240,000 tonnes of electronic waste every year? Currently, treatment centers sort electrical devices with the naked eye. The advantage is that sorting is done with precision and recycling takes place more smoothly. A producer can also, for example, ask for devices of a specific brand or type if he needs certain materials or components to make new devices.

But sorting 240,000 tonnes of electronic waste a year is a lot. Very much. That’s why they wondered how technology could speed up this process. They studied the issue with ID Lab. This IMEC research group at Antwerp University has extensive experience in the field of artificial intelligence, which has proven to be the ideal solution. Today, they are in phase 1 of the intelligent recognition system. They have a basis for testing and making identification more precise and reliable.

How to sort electronic waste precisely with AI?

Sorting must be done carefully. Category by category, brand by brand, type by type. But can the lens of a camera get there without human intervention? First they had to make the camera smart. To do this, they transformed all the electronic waste photos from the past five years into a memory aid for the camera. Hold on tight: that represents a million photos! Special image recognition software should soon not only be able to distinguish different kinds of small electronic waste, but also characteristics such as brand, type and year of manufacture. This is how it currently works with the human eye.

And does AI work in practice? During the first phase of tests with the residual fraction of electronic waste (GSM, radios, DVD players …), the camera placed more than 90% of the devices in the right category. This is an excellent basis for refining the software in the weeks and months to come. They aim for 100% accuracy, so the camera should be as reliable as the human eye. So there is no need to hire a dumpster rental in MN or elsewhere and to discard all your junk indistinguishably. With this new type of fine sorting, nearly everything can be recycled.

When will such a AI ​​project be operational? Testing is underway and they should be able to deploy the recognition software everywhere by the end of the year. Everywhere, that also means outside our borders, because other countries treat electronic waste as well. They are therefore examining with partners how foreign processing centers could also sort more efficiently thanks to this AI application.

Did you know that empty cartridges in the trash can make a bad impression? Is a cartridge an electronic componenet? As a matter of fact a cartridge is considered to be electronic equipment, as each of them contains a chip (which is used in particular to know its ink level). This tiny component is, however, of paramount importance, since it is full of useful metals and materials. Not to mention the plastic found in the cartridge itself.

Recycling facilities offer the solution. Most cartridges are reusable: after cleaning, they are refilled, and then sold. But then, what about too old or broken cartridges? They have a second life: they recycle more than 90% of each cartridge in reusable materials, which form the basis of new products.

At the recycling center of your supermarket, there s in an electronic recycling store, in a DIY store or even at the recycling park? Your empty cartridges are welcome everywhere, so help our planet remain sustainable! Didn’t you know that a cartridge was also electronic? Or that recycling could be so simple?