Tech start-ups race to make EV battery recycling sustainable
A clutch of start-ups, including Hong Kong’s GRST and Oregon-based OnTo Technology, as well as larger companies such as German chemicals giant BASF, are working on a water-based technology seen as a commercially viable and environmentally friendly alternative.
Under the process developed by Hong Kong’s GRST, which is backed by the founder of Taiwanese chipmaker Realtek Semiconductor and Hong Kong garment behemoth TAL Apparel, the used batteries can be dissolved in water to obtain the so-called black mass of valuable metals that make up the cathodes and anodes.
GRST, a winner of this year’s Earthshot prize for innovations to tackle climate challenges, hopes to raise $50mn in the next two years to increase production at the battery plant it co-owns in Zhejiang province. In the long term, GRST hopes to lease its water-based binder and recycling technology to other battery makers.
OnTo Technology, a recycling start-up in Oregon, has started commercial tests of a water-based binder developed by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. BASF invested in water-based binder production at two of its factories in China this year.
What *Really* happens to used Electric Car Batteries?
♻️💻 Material breakthrough will facilitate electronics recycling
A UK-based materials specialist has produced a circuit board substrate that dissolves in water, allowing the components to be recovered and recycled. Jiva Materials Ltd has developed a patented, fully recyclable printed circuit board (PCB) substrate it calls Soluboard. The company recently secured £1 million ($1.7 million) in funding to commercialize the product.
The organic structure of Soluboard means the non-toxic ingredients begin to delaminate when immersed into hot water. This allows the natural plant-based fibres to be composted, the remaining solution to be disposed of using standard domestic waste water systems and the electronic components to be removed for re-processing.
♻️ The potential for a plastic recycling facility to release microplastic pollution and possible filtration remediation effectiveness
With current plastic production and the growing problem of global plastic pollution, an increase and improvement in plastic recycling is needed. There is limited knowledge or assessment of microplastic pollution from point sources such as plastic recycling facilities globally. This pilot study investigates microplastic pollution from a mixed plastics recycling facility in the UK to advance current quantitative understanding of microplastic (MP) pollution release from a plastic recycling facility to receiving waters. Raw recycling wash water were estimate to contain microplastic counts between 5.97 106 – 1.12 × 108 MP m−3 (following fluorescence microscopy analysis). The microplastic pollution mitigation (filtration installed) was found to remove the majority of microplastics >5µm, with high removal efficiencies for microplastics >40µm. Microplastics <5µm were generally not removed by the filtration and subsequently discharged, with 59-1184 tonnes potentially discharged annually. It is recommended that additional filtration to remove the smaller microplastics prior to wash discharge is incorporated in the wash water management. Evidence of microplastic wash water pollution suggest it may be important to integrate microplastics into water quality regulations. Further studies should be conducted to increase knowledge of microplastic pollution from plastic recycling processes.
How recovery facilities improve performance with AI residue line analysis
Residue lines hold a lot of potential for recovery facilities. That’s because they often contain more of your raw materials than you’d like, which could have been turned into revenue. Assessing the residue stream is like a blood test for your plant, if there’s a lot of valuable material on the conveyor belt, your operations need a check-up.
The more material a facility recovers, the less it sends to landfills. If this plant recovered more valuable material, they wouldn’t just make money on their products — based on UK fees, they’d save £56,000 a month by cutting unnecessary gate fees.
Why are XRF Analyzers Used in Scrap Metal Recycling?
XRF (X-Ray Fluorescence) analyzers are commonly used in scrap metal recycling because they provide a fast and accurate way to identify and sort different types of metals. Sorting is necessary to provide customers with the correct materials as the quality of the next product could be compromised if the metal is mis-identified.
XRF analyzers work by emitting X-rays onto the metal sample, causing the atoms in the metal to emit characteristic X-rays that are detected and analyzed by the device. This allows for the identification and quantification of different elements in the sample, including the type and quantity of metals present.
🦾♻️ Robotic deep RL at scale: Sorting waste and recyclables with a fleet of robots
In “Deep RL at Scale: Sorting Waste in Office Buildings with a Fleet of Mobile Manipulators”, we discuss how we studied this problem through a recent large-scale experiment, where we deployed a fleet of 23 RL-enabled robots over two years in Google office buildings to sort waste and recycling. Our robotic system combines scalable deep RL from real-world data with bootstrapping from training in simulation and auxiliary object perception inputs to boost generalization, while retaining the benefits of end-to-end training, which we validate with 4,800 evaluation trials across 240 waste station configurations.
Bosch Rexroth Predictive Analytics @ TSR Recycling GmbH
Disrupting the Recycling Industry with AMP Robotics and Ansys
Plastic reuse program could become permanent in Tucson
Instead, the plastic was sent to ByFusion, a California company that places plastic into a patented machine that uses steam and compression to churn out 22-pound blocks that fit together with interlocking pegs. Since the material is all superheated, ByFusion can take the discarded food packaging, plastic grocery bags and bubble wrap that standard recycling plants often can’t process.
While the company has collaborated with other municipalities throughout the country, ByFusion CEO Heidi Kujawa said Tucson’s pilot program has been “one of the first in this capacity,” and that “Tucson looks like they could be the first in the world,” to adopt the infrastructure to make the program an official city service.
“One of the reasons why we did the pilot is to just learn and understand how the community was going to react to a service like this,” she said. “Now that we’re armed with that information, it’s clear that we would have increased participation if we were to provide some extending services outside of drop-off locations.”
How Hyperspectral Imaging is Revolutionizing Industrial Recycling
Another benefit of this pixel-level accuracy is that it allows for powerful IFTTT (If This Then That) rules when sorting objects mechanically in an industrial recycling facility. For example, a rule can be set up to remove an object from a PET stream if it is wrapped in a non-PET label for more than 80% of its surface area, since removing the label mechanically will likely fail, and shredding the object as is will end up contaminating the otherwise pure PET.
Finally, pixel-by-pixel level hyperspectral systems can identify the proverbial needle in a haystack. In the world of plastics recycling, PVC is a dangerous contaminant that spoils production if detected even at levels of 1 part per million. Dubbed the Poison Plasticby Greenpeace, the disposal of PVC results in the release of toxic, chlorine-based chemicals. Hyperspectral systems can detect such rare yet hazardous substances and identify them for removal with high accuracy before they result in non-reversible contamination.
Robotic solution for recycling | FANUC and Recycleye
Multi-objective optimization of recycling and remanufacturing supply chain logistics network with scalable facility under uncertainty
Recycling and remanufacturing logistics network affects the scale and efficiency of sustainable development of the manufacturing industry. This paper designs a multi-level closed-loop supply chain network with supplier, manufacturer, recycling centers, preprocessing centers and processing centers. An improved nonlinear grey Bernoulli-Markov model is developed to predict the recycled quantity. The capacity of recycling center and preprocessing center, the demand of manufacturer and the inventory of preprocessing center are formulated as constraints. A dynamic multi-objective model, which is based on scalable logistics facilities, takes into account the minimization of system operating costs and minimization of time costs related to the out-of-stock and inventory in each operating cycle. This model realizes the dynamic selection of the scale of facilities. Objective weighted genetic algorithm is adopted to transform multi-objective optimization problem into a single-objective. A scrap automobile products calculations are analyzed to verify the effectiveness and practicability of this model.
The 100% Recyclable Running Shoe That’s Only Available by Subscription
To make a shoe that can be ground up, melted down and reincarnated as another shoe, Swiss sportswear brand On didn’t just need new materials and manufacturing processes. It designed a new sales model. In June, On began shipping the first 10,000 pairs of its latest model, starting with U.S. customers. The Cloudneo is pitched as “the shoe you will never own.” Instead, runners pay $29.99 a month for an endless supply, provided they return worn-out pairs to be recycled. On executives say this arrangement will lock in a supply of raw material for new shoes, reducing waste.
Sortera Alloys Announces $10M Funding Round to Advance End-of-Life Recycling for Automotive Metals
Sortera Alloys, Inc., an innovative industrial scrap metal sorting and recycling company powered by A.I. imagery, data analytics, and advanced sensors, announced $10M in funding led by Assembly Ventures with additional funding from Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Novelis. Sortera is dedicated to providing a solution for end-of-life circular recycling in the aluminum industry.
Sortera’s A.I.-powered technology allows existing streams of mixed alloy aluminum scrap to be separated back into individual alloys. The upgraded metals can then be recycled back into the highest value applications ranging from automotive cast and flat-rolled products to building, construction, and aerospace materials extrusions. The company’s low-cost, scalable production process enables customers to reduce their CO₂ footprint and achieve sustainability and circular production goals due to the fact that recycled aluminum requires roughly 95% less energy to produce than aluminum produced from virgin raw materials.
How can we help reduce plastic waste? Facilitating the use of recycled plastics using in-mold sensors to optimize the injection molding process
To use recycled materials with material properties that fluctuate from lot-to-lot, conventionally, a skilled operator made fine manual adjustments to the injection molding process conditions according to the material properties. As this is time consuming and requires experience, this has limited the type and amount of recycled materials used as manufacturers have sought to use recycled materials with consistent properties.
To address this issue, my colleagues and I conducted a study where we looked at how we could automatically optimize the process conditions and thereby contribute to quality, and presented our results at the 37th International Conference of the Polymer Processing Society (PPS-37) which was held in Fukuoka, Japan, from 11-15 April 2022. Below, I’d like to briefly share what we did.
AI-Guided Robots Are Ready to Sort Your Recyclables
So how much of the material that goes into the typical bin avoids a trip to landfill? For countries that do curbside recycling, the number—called the recovery rate—appears to average around 70 to 90 percent, though widespread data isn’t available. That doesn’t seem bad. But in some municipalities, it can go as low as 40 percent.
Getting AI into the recycling business means combining pick-and-place robots with accurate real-time object detection. Pick-and-place robots combined with computer vision systems are used in manufacturing to grab particular objects, but they generally are just looking repeatedly for a single item, or for a few items of known shapes and under controlled lighting conditions. Recycling, though, involves infinite variability in the kinds, shapes, and orientations of the objects traveling down the conveyor belt, requiring nearly instantaneous identification along with the quick dispatch of a new trajectory to the robot arm.
One Michigan county makes millions by recycling. It could become a state model.
Today, Emmet County’s high-tech recycling program has grown into a million-dollar revenue source for the community of 33,000-some residents, selling thousands of tons of recyclables to companies across Michigan and the Great Lakes region to be made into new products. They even found a way to recycle plastic shopping bags.
Inside the facility in Harbor Springs, a robotic arm quickly sweeps across a moving conveyer belt and plucks high-grade plastics, glass, and aluminum, dropping them into sorted bins. The stream of mixed containers flows around and around until the robot pulls out all the recyclable items at a rate of 90 picks per minute; another line of materials in a separate room is where workers pluck papers, boxes, and bags by hand from a moving conveyor belt.
Fast and Efficient Plastic-Degrading Enzyme Developed Using AI
Plastic waste build-up in the environment is an enormous ecological challenge. Indeed, 40% of plastic waste goes around collection systems and ends up residing in natural environments. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) accounts for 12% of global solid waste. Enzymes that break down PET, PET hydrolases, have been previously developed but suffer from practical limitations with slow reaction rates and specific pH and temperature ranges.
Now, researchers have used a structure-based, machine learning algorithm to engineer a robust and active PET hydrolase. The enzyme, FAST-PETase (functional, active, stable, and tolerant PETase), can break down environment-throttling plastics that typically take centuries to degrade in just a matter of hours and days.
ABB’s Paper Mill Technology Helps Renewcell Turn Old Clothes Into New Fabrics
In recent years, the pulp and paper industry has gone from having a reputation of being dirty and environmentally unfriendly to being a leader in sustainability and pollution control. Now the technologies that enabled that transition are being used to help the textile industry too. And the players involved are restarting a shuttered paper mill in Sweden to make it happen, once more providing good-paying jobs for the area.
Renewcell is the Sweden-based scaleup at the center of it all. The company developed a sustainable process that recycles waste textiles into a product called Circulose, whose name is the tip-off that it’s aimed at making fashion circular.
We Recycle More Steel Than Plastic. Why Does It Still Pollute So Much?
Recycled cathode materials enabled superior performance for lithium-ion batteries
Recycling spent lithium-ion batteries plays a significant role in alleviating the shortage of raw materials and environmental problems. However, recycled materials are deemed inferior to commercial materials, preventing the industry from adopting recycled materials in new batteries. Here, we demonstrate that the recycled LiNi1/3Mn1/3Co1/3O2 has a superior rate and cycle performance, verified by various industry-level tests. Specifically, 1 Ah cells with the recycled LiNi1/3Mn1/3Co1/3O2 have the best cycle life result reported for recycled materials and enable 4,200 cycles and 11,600 cycles at 80% and 70% capacity retention, which is 33% and 53% better than the state-of-the-art, commercial LiNi1/3Mn1/3Co1/3O2. Meanwhile, its rate performance is 88.6% better than commercial powders at 5C. From experimental and modeling results, the unique microstructure of recycled materials enables superior electrochemical performance. The recycled material outperforms commercially available equivalent, providing a green and sustainable solution for spent lithium-ion batteries.
How Eastman Strives for a Circular Plastics Economy
“Mechanical recycling—where you go out and take items like single-use bottles, chop, wash and re-meld them and put them back into textiles or bottles—can only really address a small portion of the plastics that are out there,” Crawford said. After a few cycles, the polymers in the products degrade and the process is no longer possible.
Instead, Eastman uses advanced, also known as molecular or chemical, recycling. “We unzip the plastic back to its basic building blocks, then purify those building blocks to create new materials,” Crawford said. This “creates an infinite loop because that polymer can go through that process time and time again.”
Never Heard of Recycled Paint? You Have Now! - Dulux Trade Evolve
Material World: A Greener and Smarter Future for Textile Production
The environmental impact of textile production is well documented, with the industry as a whole ranking second only to oil in terms of global pollution levels. Massive energy and water use, together with sky-high levels of discarded chemicals and landfill waste are all key drivers in the calls for closed-loop production.
“3D design packages help designers optimize materials and design for minimal or zero waste, for example through lay efficiencies when laying pattern pieces out, or through calculating how to knit a garment in one piece without any yarn waste. Smart processes can also influence sourcing and supply strategies, for example through using computer algorithms to predicts waste or production inefficiencies, or fabric performance issues.”
Flash Joule heating by Rice lab recovers precious metals from electronic waste in seconds
Parts cleaning: the manufacturing maintenance saving you’ve never heard of
“Our new process, developed with the new Automatic Aqueous cleaning machine solution supplied by Safetykleen, reduced the cleaning cycle from 30 minutes down to 7 minutes!,” said a spokesperson at Knorr-Bremse “Not only was the cleaning time reduced but the cleaning is now more efficient and has significantly less environmental impact.”
The use of a parts washer can dramatically decrease the personnel time required for the cleaning component of maintenance and allows maintenance workers to focus on the key tasks of disassembly, reassembly and testing. According to feedback from users, an automatic parts washing machine can complete two days’ worth of manual cleaning in around 3 hours and reduce maintenance personnel requirements by 23%.
Revolutionizing the Composting Industry
“To our knowledge, this facility is the first time that AI (artificial intelligence) and robotics have been used in a pre-sort facility for organics in North America,” says McMillin. “The goal of the presort facility is to remove contaminants from the organic waste stream prior to processing instead of trying to remove those contaminants after they’ve been through the composting process via vacuums and wind sifters that have historically been attached to the screening process.
Circular Car Factories
The next big shift will be an environmentally friendly movement dubbed the “circular auto factory.” According to some experts, the circular cars initiative will reshape the auto industry during the next two decades, as OEMs and suppliers attempt to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across the entire vehicle life cycle.
The term “circular car” refers to a theoretical vehicle that has efficiently maximized its use of aluminum, carbon-fiber composites, glass, fabric, rubber, steel, thermoplastics and other materials. Ideally, it would produce zero material waste and zero pollution during manufacture, utilization and disposal.
One of the key elements of a circular car factory is a closed-loop recycling program where disassembly lines are housed in the same facility as traditional final assembly lines. All vehicle components and materials are remanufactured, reused and recycled at the end of life.
Trash to Cash: Recyclers Tap Startup with World’s Largest Recycling Network to Freshen Up Business Prospects
People worldwide produce 2 billion tons of waste a year, with 37 percent going to landfill, according to the World Bank.
“Sorting by hand on conveyor belts is dirty and dangerous, and the whole place smells like rotting food. People in the recycling industry told me that robots were absolutely needed,” said Horowitz, the company’s CEO.
His startup, AMP Robotics, can double sorting output and increase purity for bales of materials. It can also sort municipal waste, electronic waste, and construction and demolition materials.