AIMPLAS debuts portable, robotic material-recovery facility to bring improved waste management to remote areas


Waste management is a difficult task in remote places or where the waste generated is not enough to justify substantial infrastructure. In places such as the Greek Islands, every summer waste must be shipped to the mainland to be treated or processed. This is costly and inefficient.

The RECLAIM project is developing low-cost, portable, easy-to-install and efficient, portable materials-recovery facilities (MRFs), which will allow for material recovery anywhere, even in the most remote areas (conceptual drawing above). Additionally, the project will develop environmental games to increase awareness and engagement with citizens, encouraging their involvement in taking action towards improving material recovery from waste.

In RECLAIM, AIMPLAS, the Plastics Technology Centre, provides significant expertise in plastics recovery and the circular economy. The center will contribute in portable robotic MRF requirements and equipment specification, prioritizing the recovery of different plastics, and optimizing system performance for the different use case scenarios.

Michalis Maniadakis, senior researcher-FORTH and coordinator for this project, says, “RECLAIM is developing a new automated solution for the distributed and direct recovery of recyclables away from urban centers. In full compliance with the European Green Deal, the RECLAIM integrates state-of-the-art technologies to create a portable, robotic material recovery facility that will boost circular economy activities in remote and isolated areas".

RECLAIM will develop a novel compact mobile MRF. This will combine established recycling processing mechanical equipment and AI-powered robotic sorters in a container box which can be easily transported where needed and be ready for operation within a few hours. The MRF enable the efficient recovery of recyclable materials with a minimal number of recycling workers and remain functional and sustainable for several years after the project ends. The system will be demonstrated and validated in real-life scenarios in the Greek Ionian Islands.

Additionally, the project expects to increase social awareness for recycling via a novel Recycling Data-Game (RDG) that highlights the related challenges and encourages citizens to participate in project activities through a citizen science approach for providing data to AI-ILC training.

The project consortium is funded by the EU Horizon 2020 program and consists of three research and technology organizations, two universities, one Regional Authority, one Producer Responsibility Organization, one Robotics company, one Innovation Management company and one International Association; the members of the consortium, led by FORTH – Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas (Greece) include: AIMPLAS, Axia Innovation (Germany), ION  (Greece), IRIS (Spain), HRRC – Hellenic Recovery Recycling Corporation (Greece), KU Leuven (Belgium), Robenso – Robotic Environmental Solutions (Greece), ISWA - International Solid Waste Association (Netherlands) and UoM - L-Universita ta’ Malta (Malta).