We have developed a fully automated waste sorting system for reclaiming materials from householders' kerbside collection schemes. The pilot plant incorporates a hyperspectral imager, a broadband tracking system and a unique metal detecting array to determine the material composition of each item on a conveyor belt. The machine then collects all like-materials by ejecting them at a sort station using compressed air.
Any number of sort stations can be added to increase the number of materials collected and the machine can be trained to recognise new materials when required.
Recovering and recycling materials from waste saves the money and energy that have gone into their production and further environmental benefits occur because of the consequential reduction in the requirement for crude oil, ores and landfill. QinetiQ's reclamation system recovers items into 95% pure streams of material at a cost of around £4 per tonne (£3.50 of which is manpower), which represents a cost-effective and efficient method of materials recovery.
We are currently seeking a route-to market partner so that the automated reclamation equipment is sold widely into the waste management industry. Due to the global nature of the problem, the requirements in many countries are remarkably similar to that of the UK, so it is envisaged that the technology will have wide application.
The main drive in this technology development has been to address the needs of the EU waste packaging directive. However, there are many other current legislative drivers in the recycling market such as the End of Life Vehicles and Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment Directives that require technological solutions. QinetiQ is working with members of the waste management industry in precursor studies that aim to address their problems.