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Sociedade Ponto Verde, Tetra Pak and Valorsul invest in the first AI sorting robot in Portugal

3rd June 2024

Valorsul, the company responsible for the treatment and recovery of municipal waste in the Lisbon area and the Western Region, today announced an investment in an unprecedented robotic sorting technology in Portugal.  In collaboration with Sociedade Ponto Verde and Tetra Pak, the world leader in process solutions and food packaging, Recycleye’s automated digital sorting technology will be installed at Valorsul’s facilities in Lisbon, enabling greater sorting capacity and an increase in the volume of beverage cartons sorted and sent for recycling.

Ponto Verde Tetra Pak and Valorsul logos with a Recycleye robot picking a drinks carton

The Recycleye solution uses computer vision and robotics to automatically detect and separate waste and will be installed to improve the recovery of beverage cartons. Sociedade Ponto Verde, whose mission is intrinsically linked to the Environment, Sustainability and Circular Economy agenda, given its responsibility for organising, managing the take-back and recovery of packaging waste in Portugal, is co-financing and supporting the project through its open innovation programme re_source, together with Tetra Pak. This enables Valorsul to increase the number of beverage cartons separated for recycling, providing a greater volume of recyclables from the plant and ensuring that more packaging waste from the Lisbon area is recycled.

sarah Wolman and thomas alden from recycleye work at the valorsul site.

The solution, known as Recycleye Robotics, has already been successfully implemented in sorting facilities across the UK and elsewhere in Europe and uses a unique database of waste images to accurately detect the materials to be sorted. Recycleye Robotics uses AI (Artificial Intelligence) to visually identify objects, including those made from multiple layers of materials, such as drinks cartons.

Previously, the automatic detection of beverage cartons could be a challenge for traditional sorting technology, which led to fewer items being sorted for recycling. With this new technology, sorting professionals will work in collaboration with the robot to achieve a higher level of material purity from the separated beverage cartons.

As the items pass along the belt, the Recycleye Vision system analyses and records the data of each object detected, providing a near real-time analysis of the composition of the materials. The system can select objects more consistently accurately than a human being and can operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if necessary. 

Regarding the investment, António Afonso, from Valorsul, says:

We are proud to invest in the first AI waste sorting robot to be installed in Portugal.  This innovation will allow us not only to separate more material for recycling, supporting Lisbon’s environmental goals, but also to realise the wider opportunities that robotic sorting offers in other areas of our business.”

Ingrid Falcão, Sustainability Manager at Tetra Pak Iberia, says: “We are delighted to support this investment in innovation and to ensure greater recycling of beverage cartons in Portugal. The use of AI will enable more packages to be separated more accurately and ensure that valuable materials are not lost and are reused for the benefit of the Portuguese economy.”

Ana Trigo Morais, CEO of Sociedade Ponto Verde, says:

We are very proud to support this significant Portuguese investment in innovation, promoting a new partnership aimed at improving the recycling of packaging waste and achieving recycling targets. Using a digital solution like Recycleye will allow us to collect data and information, thus improving our understanding of the volume of recycled cartons packaging.”

“This project is yet another example of collaboration between stakeholders in the value chain. This emphasises that collaborative innovation is the solution to the challenges facing the waste sector in Portugal, making packaging recycling more efficient.”

Matias Gualtieri, Technical Sales Manager for Iberia at Recycleye, concluded: “The use of AI to detect and sort food and beverage carton waste is an innovative solution to the challenge of increasing recycling in Portugal. We are proud to be part of the solution, bringing the success of our robots from elsewhere in Europe for the benefit of Valorsul and Lisbon”.


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