Innovative plastic sorting and recycling

Posted on 18 April 2019.

In Mantes-la-Ville in the Paris region, Veolia develops smart robotic sorting solutions. And imagines the future for recycled plastics.

Sorting is a crucial step in any waste recycling process. And even more so when it’s plastic - the wide variety of resins makes it a particularly complex operation. There are several families of recyclable plastics, including PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) and HDPE (High Density Polyethylene). After collection, these plastics have to be separated on the basis of their characteristics before they can be prepared for recovery.
In Mantes-la-Ville, west of Paris, Veolia's Research & Innovation department develops smart robotic solutions to optimize this process. In the flexible and evolutive research space baptized La Halle, the remote sorting mechanism first used in the Amiens center was developed and then deployed on several other sites. It allows operators to sort plastic packaging waste remotely via a touch screen.
Incorporating robotics, digitization, artificial intelligence and sensor fusion (which combines data from different sensors on the same object), Veolia is still looking to improve sorting quality and automation with innovative tools that are able to recognize, separate and prepare the different types of plastics.
As its director Patrick Legeas explains, the goal of La Halle is to design a logical sequence of actions, from the arrival of the waste at the plant to the point at which it leaves as recycled raw materials. The ultimate goal is to increase the plastics recycling rate.

In the shoes of a plastic manufacturer
These recycled raw materials also have to fulfil the needs and expectations of their target customer - the plastics industry. Mantes-la-Ville’s La Halle is therefore both a laboratory and a workshop - with a shredder, extruder and an injection molding machine - where we devise and experiment with future uses for recycled plastic on an industrial scale.

"Our work is right at the heart of the plastics industry so we understand its needs and can give it the raw materials that match the required functionalities," says Patrick Legeas.