Autonomous Solution to Sort and Recover Recyclable Waste Materials at Sembcorp’s Material Recovery Facilities (MRF)

Background

Sembcorp currently operates a materials recovery facility (MRF) in Singapore, which recovers and recycles plastics, cans and glass, from municipal solid waste materials. The waste materials are collected from recycling bins via Sembwaste’s collection network. At the MRF, the waste materials are transferred onto the conveyor belt where operators identify, sort and recover the recyclable materials. Each conveyor belt moves at a speed of around 0.2 m/s and has a throughput of 50 tonnes/day. This highly labor-intensive process also exposes workers to pathogens and dioxins, etc. from the waste materials.

An autonomous sorting solution (possibly with AI and advanced sensors) is sought, to use materials, shape and type recognition capabilities to identify and sort various waste materials accurately. The solution should not require much manual intervention required for the recyclables recovery process, be resource efficient and potentially recover more recyclables.

Technical Specifications & Requirements

  • The solution should:
    • Automatically recover at least 70% of the recyclable materials, and sort them accordingly, at the constant operational stage. Unsorted waste can be sorted manually downstream.
    • Handle a throughput of 50 tonnes daily.
    • Work for soiled and moist waste.
  • Recyclables to be recovered include: ferrous and non-ferrous metals, glass, and plastics (such as the PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, bottles).
  • Proposals should include information on any proof-of-concept (POC)/minimum viable product (MVP) that is non-sensitive.
  • Applicant should indicate estimated commercial price of solution, cost of operation/maintenance and cost-benefit analysis of the solution in the proposal.

Besides addressing the above requirements, the proposed solution should also fulfil the following criteria:

  • Not be readily or commercially available in the market.
  • Wherever applicable, aim to:
    • Enhance safety of operations; and/or
    • Reduce reliance of manpower; and/or
    • Improve quality, consistency and service delivery; and/or
    • Achieve cost-effectiveness; and/or
    • Improve efficiency/productivity.

Development Timeline

The project can be implemented in 2 phases:

Phase 1: Deploy a minimum viable product (e.g. 1 robotic arm) at the conveyor belt of the MRF for proof of concept in 6 – 12 months.

Phase 2: Implement an integrated complete solution (e.g. a series of robotic arms) in an assembly line setup to recover 70-80% of waste material within 2 years.
 

Additional Resources

Sembcorp will allow access to its MRF in Singapore for the installation and trial of this robotic arm setup. If the trial is successful, Sembcorp may scale up the solution for full commercial deployment, and work with the selected applicant to automate the entire MRF process.

Challenge Owner(s)

Sembcorp Industries

Document containing additional information

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