The researchers are working with waste management companies, IQRenew and CurbCycle, technology developers Licella, Mike Ritchie and Associates, and Resource Recovery Design to develop the system.
It will be integrated into IQ Renew's material recovery facility as part of CurbCycle's soft plastic recovery program, an Australian initiative that involves the household collection of recyclables that are segregated into bags prior to placing them into their kerbside recycling bin.
"Not only does our project divert household soft plastics from going to landfill; by creating a solution for the collection and sorting of waste with our industry and research partners, we're also creating a sustainable supply chain that takes rubbish from households to end markets," said Associate Professor Wanli Ouyang.
"The robot will identify 'CurbyTagged' bags and differentiate sources of plastic, separating soft plastics from the fully co-mingled recyclables," he said.
After being separated from other waste, the soft plastics will be used for various purposes, including advanced recycling into oils and other valuable chemicals using patented Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor technology (Cat-HTR™) created by Licella Holdings. Licella was founded by Professor Thomas Maschmeyer from the Faculty of Science alongside Licella CEO, Dr Len Humphreys, and has been supported by the University of Sydney for 14 years.
"This highly innovative materials handling process can help extend the range of the Cat-HTR conversion technology to now include increasingly challenging waste streams, highlighting the benefit of close industrial and academic collaboration," said Professor Maschmeyer.