The Circular Initiative: With collaboration and robot technology, the recycling industry is leading the way
On June 27, the first meeting of the Circular Initiative – a collaborative, industry-wide forum for Swedish companies on increasing circular material flows throughout Swedish industry – was held.
Stena Recycling initiated the event and, together with ABB, Combitech, Electrolux and Stora Enso, invited some of Sweden’s foremost companies to attend. It is clear that issues concerning circular flows stimulate great interest, as approximately 250 guests from a variety of industries took part.
– We need to create more useful resources from waste and increase the amount of recycled material used in manufacturing. That so many companies attended yesterday, is a positive sign, for both the initiative and the future, said Kristofer Sundsgård, Managing Director of Stena Recycling.
Robot technology is driving the recycling industry forward
The event produced many interesting discussions and the Circular Initiative will lead to a number of measures. Stena Recycling, ABB, Combitech and Electrolux presented a joint innovation project, the first of several collaborations within the initiative.
Together, the companies have built a trial facility to improve the efficiency of electrical product recycling. Using robotics and shared product data, the waste is scanned in order to identify products and materials. Using data from manufacturers, recyclable fractions are identified and dismantling is carried out. The process produces less leftover waste and improves the quality of the recycled material – contributing to more sustainable production and consumption.
In addition, the project offers insights for Electrolux, and similar companies, about designing their future products from a recycling perspective.
– It is through collaboration that we will drive Swedish technology and industry forward. In this partnership, we can test new solutions where automation and robotics form important components in a self-learning system. The result is more efficient separation and maximized material recovery in Stena Recycling’s processes, said Martin Björnmalm, a business developer at ABB.
The pilot project is processing end-of-life vacuum cleaners but the intention is to use this technology for all types of electronic waste.
– With an AI-based system, we have a solution that recognizes a wide range of material and will automatically adapt to new types of electronic waste. A combination of smart technology and humans is the key to success, says Johan Gunnarsson, CTO at Combitech.
“Take-aways” from the Circular Initiative 2019
In addition to the organizers, speakers at the event included Jacob Wallenberg, from Investor AB, Sarah McPhee, from Houdini Sportswear, and Märtha Rehnberg, from DareDisrupt. Below, are some of their contributions:
Jacob Wallenberg: “We have reached a point where society demands that the industry take responsibility. If you do not engage in sustainability issues, you will lose both customers and staff and will not survive as a company. But if you address these issues properly, you will not only be supporting global environmental goals – your business will probably perform better as well.”
Sarah Mc Phee: “This is an impressive initiative. It is incredibly positive for the future that people like Jacob Wallenberg and some of our largest companies are engaged and participating in the Circular Initiative. So far, this type of initiative has mostly attracted those already involved in green activity. Here, we have a mixed audience and the whole event is grounded in the industry.”
Märtha Rehnberg: “I knew that there was some bold thinking in the Nordic countries, but this is a bit bolder than I thought. Here, 100 percent recycling rates are being discussed. I’m not hearing that anywhere else in Europe. I just wish we were shouting a little louder about our goals and ambitions, because these are not just empty words. We are seeing some really interesting results that can inspire the rest of the world, if we just dare to shout a little louder.”