ZenRobotics robotic sorting arm
ZenRobotics

Norway waste management group debuts robotic sorting facility

Bjorstaddalen partnered with ZenRobotics on the facility.

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Bjorstaddalen Avfallsanlegg AS, a waste management firm based in Norway, has announced that it is opening that country's first artificial intelligence- (AI-) powered robotic sorting station for industrial C&D and commercial and industrial (C&I) scrap in Skien. The company says it has partnered with ZenRobotics, which is based in Finland, on the new facility.

According to a news release from ZenRobotics about the installation, the new robotic sorting facility “will substantially increase material recovery at Bjorstaddalen and make a major move away from waste incineration toward a circular economy in the Nordic country.”

ZenRobotics says the AI-powered robots sort several fractions from industrial waste and are trained to recognize new ones, which will help to expand business opportunities for Bjorstaddalen.

The sorting station supplied by ZenRobotics features robotic arms that will perform up to 6,000 picks per hour. The robotic sorting station is set up as a stand-alone sorting process connected to Bjorstaddalen’s existing material recovery facility (MRF) that has a total capacity of 150,000 metric tons per year.

“We want to be at the forefront and are constantly looking for better solutions for handling industrial waste,” says Bjorstaddalen Executive Vice President Sindre Hauen. “It has long worried us that there is a low degree of material recycling in Norway compared to other countries. We are good at recovering energy in this country, but that only means that waste is incinerated. We want to do something about this.”

ZenRobotics says its sorting robots can recover fractions that are currently recycled at the facility, such as A, B and C wood as well as nonmetals, including black plastics. Bjorstaddalen wants to use the robots to recover additional materials in the future, as well.

“The robots can be trained to identify interesting new fractions,” Hauen says. “If new markets open up in the future, or there are new demands from the authorities, the robotic plant can be trained to recognize these fractions as well.”

Bjorstaddalen is further developing the robotic sorting line to identify different kinds of recyclables. The company already has entered into agreements with several customers who want to use the sorted fractions as raw material.

“We are proud to support an industry trailblazer like Bjorstaddalen that sees the enormous possibilities provided by AI and robotic technologies in advancing the circular economy and capturing an increasing number of valuable high-purity materials in a cost-efficient and accurate way,” says Wolfgang Schiller, CEO of ZenRobotics. “The waste industry is set to become further digitalized and automated in the coming years. Our forward-looking customers are investing in intelligent sorting robots now to get a headstart in applying these emerging technologies and build a competitive edge in the market.”