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Viridor invests in robotic sorting for Skelmersdale Plastics Reprocessing Facility

10th August 2018

Viridor has invested £445,000 in upgrades to its Skelmersdale Plastics Reprocessing Facility which include the addition of the Max-AI AQC (Autonomous Quality Control) robotic sorter.

Viridor is an early adopter of this ground-breaking technology which will help purify PET plastics, recovering metals and other plastic types and removing contamination. It will be operational later this year.

Launched last year by Oregon-based Bulk Handling Systems (BHS), the Max-AI AQC incorporates an AI-powered vision system to identify recyclables and make decisions, along with a robotic sorter that picks items and places them into chutes. The neural network technology mirrors the framework of the brain to identify recyclables in a similar manner to a person. Unlike optical sorters, which detect material by type or colour, the advanced AI can differentiate between like material compositions and make up to six separate sorts in one location. When the recyclables have been identified by the vision system, the robotic sorter then does the picking.

Viridor’s Head of Recycling Assets (Polymers & Paper) Jez Blake said: “The addition of the robotic sorter is part of an ongoing Viridor investment in technology which adds new levels of sophistication to our recycling and reprocessing capability.

“The new technology is in line with the Viridor focus on providing quality recycling material for the manufacturing process.

“The consistent focus on quality and innovation is crucial to ensuring recycling material is favoured over virgin plastic. This is how we will achieve our closed-loop recycling and circular economy goals.”

The AI detects recyclables using a camera, unlike traditional recycling equipment that requires expensive sensors. The Max-AI AQC is capable of making approximately 65 picks per minute, a productivity rate equal to two manual sorting positions.

Viridor is one of the leading reprocessors of domestic plastics in the UK, working in partnership with more than 150 local authority and major corporate clients with 32,000 customers across the UK.

With its focus on waste as a valuable resource, rather than rubbish, it offers its customer base a more circular economy waste management solution.

“Max is a perfect fit for Viridor’s Plastics Reprocessing Facility,” said BHS Sales Manager Steve Almond.

“The plant runs nearly all day, and Max is able to sort at a consistently fast pace all day, handling the long hours with ease. We are appreciative of this investment from Viridor and applaud the company’s commitment towards a circular economy –  I have no doubt that Max will deliver a productive and profitable recycling solution,” he said.

The Viridor plastics facility in Skelmersdale recycles 3,000 tonnes of UK post-consumer plastic bottles a month into high-value raw materials. The primary recyclate streams are PET and HDPE, which are of sufficient quality to be used in the most demanding applications as direct replacements for virgin polymer.

To see the Max-AI AQC in action, click here.

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