Eberhard sorting plant using ZenRobotics AI-based to retain value of C&D
Construction and demolition (C&D) waste makes up over one-third of total waste generated in Europe, and many of the material streams from C&D waste are not suitable for reuse or high-grade recycling. Instead, mixed construction waste is widely used as low grade material or even dumped. The Eberhard Group, a Swiss family-owned company and ZenRobotics' long-term partner, offers a new solution to circulating and retaining the value of C&D waste in their recycling plant. Eberhard Group's recently opened plant - one of the largest recycling plants in the German-speaking region - will recover high-purity materials from C&D waste using advanced AI and robot technologies by ZenRobotics. These clean materials will be converted into new, high-quality and fully circular raw material for buildings.
"After water, concrete is the most used resource of the world and mixed demolition waste is one of the biggest waste streams landfilled. We simultaneously dig enormous holes into the planet while piling up huge mountains on the other side. New sustainable alternatives are needed. Our new EbiMIK plant sorts mixed demolition waste in all its components. This boosts circular economy because each valuable material can be reused individually. Robots with artificial intelligence play an important role in this revolutionary new facility," said Patric van der Haegen, Division Head Development from the Eberhard Group
The Eberhard Group estimates that the circular raw material will lead to significant emission reductions. The production of cement, a key component of concrete, involves combustion processes that release CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change. The new zirkulit concrete developed by the Eberhard Group will save 10 kilograms of CO2 emissions per cubic meter while providing the same mechanical and chemical qualities as conventional concrete. The new zirkulit concrete is also optimized to use almost 7 percent less cement than conventional concrete.
Smart robots to do the hard and dirty work
To ensure that all the high-purity secondary materials are captured from mixed C&D streams, The Eberhard Group's plant uses AI-powered sorting robots from ZenRobotics - the first company to apply AI-driven robots to waste-sorting environments over a decade ago. Intelligent robots are used as the main sorting system at the new plant which includes two parallel sorting lines with multiple high capacity heavy duty robots on each line.
"We have been working with the Eberhard Group since 2015 and are impressed by their pioneering commitment to find new, circular solutions for construction materials. Indeed, Eberhard was one of the first operators to see the possibilities of AI-based sorting in improving the efficiency and profitability of waste management. We are proud to be part of this exceptional facility that applies our smart waste management solutions while helping to reduce CO2 emissions significantly," said Jarmo Ruohonen, CEO of ZenRobotics.
The plant opened on September 23 and it has the capacity to sort 200 tons of mixed waste per hour. The ZenRobotics robots sort waste material on two lines with six grippers. The robots pick up to 12,000 items per hour with up to 30 kilogram weight, separating mineral materials and foreign impurities from the stream.
ZenRobotics' AI-based robots can sort a wide range of materials from C&D as well as industrial and household waste. As clean, recyclable fractions like wood, plastics, metals and stone aggregates are captured from waste streams, they can be reused as secondary raw material and replace the need for virgin raw materials or fossil fuels.
Traditionally, waste management companies have operated using a simple "management of waste" approach to operating a MRF. Throughput targets and continuous operation (minimal downtime) were the main driving forces. The industry has changed however, and the focus moving forward is now on optimizing system performance and reliability, in conjunction with increasing recycling rates and a drive for a "greener" and more sustainable tomorrow.
When considering the addition of, or upgrade to, an "intelligent" MRF, for municipalities or private operators, the main factors should always be the client's (operator) current requirements, and evolving market needs, which include throughput, reliability, output quality, and adaptability. Equally important is a full understanding of what is really expected from any proposed system. Having an engaged and focused mindset for the project with the client from the beginning, will impact and drive the entire design process. This then impacts the overall project result, through to the productive, efficient, ongoing operation of the facility itself.