ROBOTS have come to the rescue to help sort household recyclables in Dunfermline.

Three AI-powered robotic pickers have been installed at Fife Council's material recovery facility (MRF) in the city and put to use to extract valuable recyclables which would have otherwise been sent to landfill.

The site, run by Cireco Scotland, sorts 30,000 tonnes of household recyclables – such as aluminium, plastics, paper and cartons – every year.

The pure material streams are then compacted into bales and sent for chemical or mechanical reprocessing into recycled material.

Dunfermline Press: The three Recycleye robots at the Dunfermline material recovery facility.The three Recycleye robots at the Dunfermline material recovery facility. (Image: Contributed)

The waste has previously been sorted by analogue machinery such as magnets, near-infrared sensor sorters and a team of manual pickers who perform quality control at the end of the process, picking out any recyclables that have been missed.

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However, since September 2022, three Recycleye robots have been put to use to automate and increase recovery of target recyclables, capitalising on their value rather than losing them to landfill.

The ground-breaking technology comprises a computer vision system which sits on the facility’s conveyor belt, leveraging a camera and machine learning algorithms to detect each waste item by material and object.

This detection information, along with the coordinates of which bin the item should be sorted into, is sent to the corresponding robotic arm, which physically picks and shoots the material accordingly.

The innovation – which sees the machines picking around 30,000 items a shift – has enabled Cireco to relocate three manual pickers to engineering maintenance roles and other lines within the plant.

Dunfermline Press: Zoe Cook and David Goodenough with the robots put into operation at the Cireco run facility in Dunfermline.Zoe Cook and David Goodenough with the robots put into operation at the Cireco run facility in Dunfermline. (Image: Contributed)

David Goodenough, Service Manager (Corporate Operations and Projects) at Cireco, said: "Recycleye is very forward-thinking and worked with us to develop a system that would work for our unique set of materials that we come across and the batch process that we operate.

"We are proud that this innovation is supporting increased recycling rates for Scotland, and ensuring resources are fed back into the local economy.”

Zoe Cook, Technical Sales Manager (UK) at Recycleye, added: “This robotics installation at Cireco is a prime example of the flexibility of AI to adapt to compositional and regulatory changes, and Scotland’s waste management businesses that are leading the way in innovation.”