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MTC and Recycleye Partner in Recycling Revolution

Recycleye has partnered with the independent research organisation, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), to develop Recycleye Robotics, the most affordable, and easily retrofittable robotic picker in the waste management industry. 

Manual waste pickers in the industry are no longer equipped handle the 2 trillion tonnes of waste produced each year globally. The repetitive nature of waste sorting has exposed pickers to long-term health conditions, leading to a high labour turnover. Health hazards have been further exacerbated by Covid-19, as the spread of the virus has threatened entire plant closures. In addition to rising health concerns, Brexit is expected to place a significant strain on the ability to find and recruit manual pickers, leaving recycling facilities unable to keep up with the demands of waste sorting.  

Material recovery facilities have been automating waste sorting through the installation of robotic waste pickers. Although automated pickers have improved the rate and quality of recovered waste, existing systems carry high capital and retrofit costs, preventing many recycling facilities from fully automating their waste sorting operations. Without automated sorting in all material recovery facilities, the UK’s recycling rates will continue to decline 


In 2020, the MTC’s Intelligent Automation team partnered with Recycleye to develop a robotic picker designed to reduce the cost of recycling further than what existing robotic pickers provide. The MTC, which houses some of the world’s most advanced industrial technologies, enabled Recycleye’s robotic picker to scale from research and development to industrialisation within a year. The organisation’s team of world-leading engineers conducted a series of rigorous stress tests to develop a stronger gripper system. As a result, the accuracy and the speed at which the Recycleye picker is able to sort waste was optimised.  

Matthew Arnold, a Software Engineer at Recycleye commented ‘Partnering with the MTC has been pivotal in helping Recycleye move closer to achieving its mission to accelerate the world’s transition towards a circular economy.  The low cost of Recycleye’s picker is de-risking the automation process for the waste management industry, enabling for more materials to be recycled.’ 

Recycleye’s intelligent picking system is powered by Recycleye Vision – a world leading AI computer vision system which detects all items on waste streams by material, item and even brand. As a modular automated sorting solution, Recycleye Robotics successfully adapts to changing waste composition without any need for retrofit.  

The deployment of Recycleye’s robotic waste picker successfully mitigates the risks and costs associated with manual sorting. In particular admin costs such as hiring, and training are eliminated. While manual pickers work in shifts, Recycleye’s robotic picker can work continuously without any need for breaks, increasing total throughput of material recovery facilities by up to 110 percent. Recycling facilities which join Recycleye’s Early Adopters Programme, a partnership providing early access to Recycleye’s technologies, can expect a 300 percent return on investment compared to the manual sorters. Such yields are providing waste facilities with the additional capacity to increase sorting capabilities, thereby reducing the volume of waste being sent to landfill.  

James Owens, research engineer at the MTC said “With years of experience in machine vision and industrial robotics in manufacturing, we are excited to be applying our skills to bring a new solution to the other end of the product lifecycle. We have been able to engage with one of our industrial members, a world-leading robotics company, to develop a robust and affordable system with Recycleye.”  

Mike Wilson, chief automation officer at the MTC said “Successful automation used to require a very structured approach with consistent parts and controlled presentation. The application of robots to recycling demonstrates the ability to handle much more varied parts and conditions and undertake mundane, unpleasant tasks which really should be automated.”  

The combination of Recycleye’s deep technologies and the MTC’s renowned experience in delivering innovative manufacturing solutions is accelerating the waste management industry’s transition to the fourth industrial revolution.   


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