Artificial Intelligence : Urbaser and Recycleye announce first AI waste sorting innovation investment in Spain

Urbaser plant,Urbaser’s plant in Algimia, Valenica Spain.

Urbaser’s plant in Algimia, Valenica Spain.

- © Urbaser

Urbaser, a world-leader in environmental solutions announced an investment in automated sorting technology with an AI-powered waste picking robot. Due to be installed in Algimia, Valencia during H1 2024, the technology is provided by UK-based technology provider Recycleye.

The robot, which uses computer vision to automatically detect and sort waste, will be installed on a residual line at the facility to pick missed valuables at the end of the sorting process, saving them from being lost to landfill. This investment delivers additional sustainability, generates more income and helps to deliver on Urbaser’s stated vision of delivering the best environmental solutions along its value chain.

Recycleye AI, which has been installed in sorting facilities across the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe, is as accurate as a human eye. It uses a unique database of billions of waste images to accurately detect materials for sorting. The AI can detect and sort objects not before possible, such as black plastics, and it can distinguish between items made from the same material, such as aluminium cans versus aluminium aerosols. It is also able to recognise PET and other types of plastic bottle that contain residual liquid, which often causes incorrect sorting by some more established sorting technologies.

As each item passes along the belt, the Recycleye Vision system not only scans to enable sorting, but also records the data on the object detected, providing near-real time analysis on the composition of the waste. Combined with a robotic arm, the system can pick items more consistently accurately than a human being and is able to operate 24 hours a day and 7 days a week if required. Overall, this AI-powered automation equipment investment ensures more materials can be separated for recycling.

A Recycleye Robot installed in a waste plant.

- © Urbaser

Urbaser works in partnership with the Consorcio Palancia Belcaire, a consortium of local authorities, united in the goal of sending less waste to landfill and more for recycling. The installation of this innovative technology brings advances to Valenica and to Spain that are working well elsewhere in Europe.

Speaking about the innovation, Rubén Benito, Plant Director for Urbaser said “We are proud to bring this investment to our operations in Valenica, demonstrating our commitment to drive innovation and change in our pursuit of greater sustainability. We expect the robot to deliver greater value and more traceability to our operations and ultimately to enable us to recycle more, which is good for our staff, our business and for the planet”.

Commenting on the agreement, Matias Gualtieri, Technical Sales Manager at Recycleye and based in Valencia said “Partnering with FANUC as a robotic arm provider allows us to bring our AI-powered sorting technology to Spain while ensuring a solid after-sales response thanks to their 15 service engineers spread across the country. We are confident we can build on this first local installation to repeat the success we have had in Northern Europe and are proud to have been selected by Urbaser as a technology partner to transform more waste into resources”.

The Recycleye and Urbaser team together on a recent planning site visit.

- © Urbaser