At Carl F’s waste sorting facility, mixed construction waste is automatically sorted into fractions by a self-learning robot at 4000 picks per hour. With the new system, much more waste is recycled.

The first waste sorting robot in Sweden, at Carl F’s facility in Malmö. Photo: Carl F.

”Our sorting facility receives more than 35 000 tonnes of mixed waste every year, much of it from the construction industry. Our customers are good at pre-sorting the waste, but in spite of that, about 40 percent used to end up as energy fuel. We considered that wasteful, and began to scout for a more efficient sorting technology to retain more of the material in circulation. And now, Carl-Robot is operational – the first waste sorting robot in Sweden”, says Carl Fredrik Jönsson at Carl F AB, Malmö.

Sorting based on material, size and shape

The Carl-Robot has been in training since it arrived, and it is getting better and better at sorting. The system, delivered by Finnish company Zen Robotics Ltd, can sort a number of waste fractions based on material, size and shape. It is capable of separating wood, plastic, metal and rock from each other, and even recognizes the difference between a handful of different wooden and plastic materials. The Carl-Robot is a practical implementation of artificial intelligence; it uses sensors and smart algorithms to refine its categorization, learning from experience as it goes along. It could actually be taught to sort almost anything”, Carl Fredrik Jönsson says.

The robotic system consists of a conveyor belt equipped with cameras and sensors. The waste is analyzed as it moves along the sorting line: a 3D scanner defines the shape and height of the objects, and a metal detector and several cameras (one of them IR) identify the material at hand. The actual sorting is performed by two robotic arms, that throw the waste in one of eight different compartments. The system is operational 18 hours a day, and the robot can do close to 4000 picks per hour.

”There are hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste to sort for materials recycling, and we aim to recover up to 12 000 tonnes more of what we process at this facility alone. Our customers get their waste better sorted, and the higher recycling rate gives them procurement advantages. Environmental concerns are becoming more and more important throughout the supply chain, and better materials recycling translates to both environmental and business advantage. We have made an 18 MSEK investment in the facility, with an estimated payback period of six to seven years. So far, the robot has exceeded expectations”, Carl Fredrik says.

Wind turbine

Carl F is self-sufficient in electricity, thanks to the company’s wind turbine. Photo: Carl F.

”We had already invested in a water treatment plant at the facility, and a couple of years ago we decided to add a wind turbine. As far as we know, we are the first company in Malmö to produce our own electricity that way. The 44 m tall wind turbine provides 150 MWh of renewable energy annually, enough to power the recycling facility and the Carl-Robot”.

”We want our operations to do good for the environment, and we are stepping up our ambitions. Since many years, we are certified according to ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. By employing the latest technology and efficient logistics solutions, we are able to offer cost-efficient and environmentally sound services. All of our transport vehicles are of the latest models, and run on HVO – that is, synthetic diesel made from renewable sources”, Carl Fredrik Jönsson says.

The article was published in April 2018.