Today many recycling companies struggle with the value assessment of complex material streams. The main issues are the costly and labour-intensive sampling procedures and subsequent chemical analysis, leading to long waiting times (often several weeks) and the associated financial uncertainty.  

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Characterisation technology turns waste virtually inside out

Characterise-to-Sort (CtS) is an innovative technology specifically developed for the inline characterisation of complex heterogeneous material streams. It will provide waste-processing and waste collection companies with:
• Fast and reliable data for an easy value assessment 
• Quality control based on the composition of the complete material stream, without time-consuming and costly laboratory analyses
• A means of developing new or improving existing recycling processes

Create added value from waste using artificial intelligence (AI)

If you know exactly what your waste stream contains, you can recycle it more efficiently. Characterise-to-Sort creates a mass balance on the fly. In fact, for each material particle a ‘digital twin’ is created which can be further assessed in a virtual way. This allows you to get insights into your entire waste stream:

  • How many different materials can be found in your waste?
  • What is the nature of these materials?
  • How large are the particles and what is their shape?
  • What is the mass of each individual particle in your waste?
  • What is the value of your waste?

How does Characterise-to-Sort work?

CtS works by screening particles on a conveyor belt using a colour camera, a 3D laser scanner, and X-rays. The device uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to recognise individual particles and assign various parameters to them, such as material class, shape, texture, mass, and hundreds of other parameters. As such, the device creates a digital twin of each particle

What’s next for the new characterisation technology?

The technology has been successfully scaled up from ‘scan-the-bucket’ to ‘scan-the-truck’ as was recently demonstrated during 2 large-scale demo events. For different metal-rich material streams, VITO was able to showcase the industrial relevance of the new characterisation technology. To take on this challenge, VITO partnered with Ghent University and two industrial partners, Suez and Umicore, in the CHARAMBA project. This project has been supported by the European funds from the EIT Raw Materials, which aims to support good ideas and innovations and bring them to the market. 
After project completion, VITO wishes to introduce the innovative technology as a service to the market and subsequently launch a spin-off company selling tailor-made in-line characterisation devices to several players in the metal recycling market.