SJTU China-UK Low Carbon College Released Outcome of AI waste sorting robot

To celebrate the World Environment Day on June 5, the China-UK Low Carbon College (LCC) of Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) released a research outcome of an ongoing project at the college which is a robot that can sort dry waste. 

According to the team, the machine can identify a piece of dry waste before placing it in its respective container. The device currently boasts a 90 percent accuracy rating and can sort up to 5,400 pieces of waste per hour.

“Workers involved in manual sorting of unseparated domestic waste are exposed to unhygienic environments. The work also poses risks to their safety as there are sometimes items such as sharp metal pieces or broken glass that could hurt them,” said Jia Li, the project leader and associate professor at the college.

“Furthermore, it’s getting more difficult to hire such workers given the harsh working conditions. Robots would be useful for such repetitive and arduous tasks. Two robots operating for 24 hours a day can handle the workload of 54 workers, and with a higher efficiency,” he added.

“Using robots will also improve the speed and quality of recycled waste re-entering the production process as valuable raw materials, thereby reducing the pollution associated with the manufacture of new materials”.

Li noted that there is a lack of waste sorting equipment in the domestic market, and such products developed by other countries are prohibitively expensive – a single unit could cost up to 10 million yuan ($1.4 million). Maintenance costs are high as well. 

Equipped with three kinds of cutting-edge sensors and other technologies like contour identification, the machine can identify the color, shape and texture of an object as well as what it is made of. An algorithm also enables the robotic arm to determine the most efficient way to fetch items.

According to Li, the team will cooperate with factories and companies to conduct performance assessments on the robot.

“The components of garbage are different in every city and neighborhood, and these varying elements will impact the performance of the machine. The robots need to be trained to work in the real environment,” he said.

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Company Name: SJTU International
City: Shanghai
Country: China