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Robots Can Now Separate Soft Recyclable Plastic From Others And It’s A Huge Accomplishment


Through the years we have seen an increase in the temperature, and we have heard in the news that the icebergs are melting as a result it is rising the sea levels and flooding the low lying regions. We have seen animals going extinct because of the environment and agriculture getting hindered due to the harsh climate change. Another disturbing thing was the landfill sites which made the beauty of nature disappear as it was covered underneath the huge piles of plastic. Soon the beautiful sand beaches were also covered with plastic bottles, chips packets, and many more.  

No matter how many cleaning sessions of beaches there were and lord knows how many articles and videos have been made on this topic there are just some people who don’t want to listen and do as they please and this careless attitude is the reason why mother nature is getting sick day by day. But we have to save mother nature as this is our home and we can’t keep torturing it with the rigorous air pollution by the smokes from the chimneys of the factories and exhaust fumes and water pollution by the chemicals from the factory being let out in the water bodies killing many aquatic animals etc. 

So to take a step towards healing our mother Earth, engineers at the University of Sydney are developing a robot that can sort soft plastics out of waste which as a result will simplify the recycling processes. At least with this, the problem of landfill sites can be reduced. At last, we have found a way that can recycle plastic which, is known as non-biodegradable and, has been a headache for everyone as it just keeps piling up. Soft plastics like cling wrap and plastic bags are a major contributor to the problem with 94 percent going to landfill in 2016-17. This is because soft plastics lack adequate recycling methods as they easily entangle in waste separation machinery, leading to mechanical failure and contamination of other recyclable materials such as paper. Because of this problem, current recycling methods rely on the manual sorting of soft plastics, and often repetitive and unsafe tasks. 

Now with the invention of robots which can sort out the soft plastic, it will be quicker and more efficient because after all, they are robots and not us like humans who will have a hundred things in mind while working and require breaks and be careful with the dangerous task. The team working on this includes Professor Branka Vucetic, Professor Yonghui Li, Associate Professor Wanli Ouyang, Dr. Wanchun Liu, and Senior Technical Officer Dawei Tan from the School of Electrical and Information Engineering. 

To give a briefing about the new robot the team is working on the IoT expert, Professor Branka Vucetic said “The recycling robotic automation system will use artificial intelligence and computer vision to learn how to identify different forms of recycling waste, effectively learning how to ‘see’ and ‘sort’ waste, to create separate waste streams and maintain soft plastics’ purity so they can be recycled”  to which Professor Yonghui Li continued by saying that “Soft plastics are a big contributor to landfill and have long been a challenge for the circular economy and waste management sector, as they have lacked an adequate and safe sorting method. Using the latest IoT techniques, we have created a custom robot to solve this issue”. 

So let us hope that this new robot turns out to be a great success then it will be one victorious step for all of us as then at least one of the problems is being dealt with. Professor Branka Vucetic says she hopes to see the system will roll out nationally over the next few years and we all eagerly wait for it to be seen in action.

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