Today many waste streams are sub-optimally recycled because the quality of the materials is difficult to measure. VITO is developing a characterisation device that recognises each single particle in the waste. Over time, the new technology can make the separation and valorisation of waste more efficient.

Recognising waste particles

Sorting waste by hand is expensive and provides only limited information about the quality of the reusable materials. Within Characterise-to-Sort, VITO is developing a characterisation technology that recognises very diverse waste particles and transforms these into a ‘digital twin’ or digital counterpart. The waste is placed on a conveyor belt and scanned using X-rays, a 3D laser scanner and a colour camera. Using image processing and machine-learning , the device recognises the individual particles and assigns numerous physical parameters: size, mass, shape, material, texture … This makes it possible to create a digital counterpart of each physical waste pile.

Digital twin

A digital twin is a dynamic software model that uses sensor data to understand and improve an existing object or system. Hence, a digital twin of a waste disposal site provides lots of useful information. How many metals are still contained in construction and demolition waste? Which metals? How large are these metal particles and what is their shape? Intelligent technology ensures that the device learns and recognises increasingly more types of waste and parameters. This information is useful for improving existing recycling processes and for guaranteeing the quality of recycled materials. Over time, characterisation technology can help to develop new and better recycling processes through simulations.

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