Collaboration key for development of smart recycling solutions

Wednesday, 21 December, 2022 | Supplied by: SAGE Automation

Collaboration key for development of smart recycling solutions

Container Deposit Systems (CDS) is an Australian company offering a range of technology solutions to recycling depot facilities, helping to drive productivity improvements and transition traditional recycling facilities into modern, technically advanced operations. With a vision to improve the recycling process and enable improved resource recovery, CDS saw an opportunity to increase the efficiency of container recycling through technology, enabling recycling facilities to improve the return process for customers.

Following extensive research into overseas automated recycling solutions, it was discovered that these systems weren’t quite hitting the mark, as they could only scan containers with intact barcodes. This meant crushed and damaged containers, as well as those with no labels, couldn’t be refunded.

CDS approached SAGE Automation with an idea to improve the recycling process with an innovative solution that avoided the challenges encountered with international designs and fully automated the return and refund processing of containers. A partnered approach with industry experts saw the development of a solution that both provides a viable business opportunity for container deposits and contributes to the circular economy.

SAGE Automation collaborated with CDS, mechanical partner Macweld Industries, the University of South Australia (UniSA) and Nukon to design an Automatic Redemption Terminal (ART) that automates the sorting of containers to a high level of accuracy, while also providing a refund point for customers.

To provide an end-to-end solution for depots, a solution was also needed for the cash redemption and container counting side of the process.

In addition to the ARTs for collecting and sorting the containers and providing a receipt for clients to claim back the refund, the collaboration also developed a Manual Input Station (MIS) for depots to count the containers and process refunds electronically, a Cash Redemption Terminal (CRT) for processing refunds, and a Remote Access Panel (RAP) to enable remote support and upgrades.

SAGE Automation worked with CDS and professors from UniSA to develop the ART for the automated sorting, counting and processing of deposit legislation containers. The terminal uses a unique smart vision system, developed by UniSA, to identify the types of containers, including those which have damaged labels.

As sister companies, SAGE and Nukon worked together on the delivery. While SAGE delivered the control systems, Nukon took care of the IT and customer-facing solution, utilising IIoT technology. Making use of inexpensive computers, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and IIoT, the cloud infrastructure ensured costs were kept down, allowing the system to be easily expanded where needed.

The idea underwent a proof-of-concept and rapid prototyping phase to ensure it would enable the return of bulk containers in any condition. The final solution is a secure, robust, cost-effective alternative to reverse vending machines.

Working with UniSA and Macweld Industries, and following an agile project delivery method, SAGE and Nukon were able to reduce development costs and the client was given opportunities to review, test and adjust the solution during the prototyping stage.

New features were added even after the solution went live, via remote updates and enhancements. This allowed CDS to respond quickly to customer feedback and new challenges.

As part of the product development process, SAGE Automation ensured CDS could scale the manufacture of machines as required, enabling rapid expansion particularly as new container deposit schemes are launched in other states.

While SAGE manufactured the ART control systems in its Tonsley Manufacturing Centre, there was also a requirement to do final assembly and factory acceptance testing prior to shipping to CDS’s customer sites. To achieve this capability, SAGE expanded into extra manufacturing space within the Tonsley precinct.

As further container deposit schemes have rolled out, SAGE Group has been able to support this growth and continued innovation.

CDS has an ongoing support contract with SAGE Automation and Nukon to ensure smooth operation of technology and that depot managers have 24-hour access to technical support when needed. This model minimises the risk of downtime for depot operators and managers.

“The solution makes the returns process quicker and easier for customers, provides probity of information between members of the returns scheme, and it is a viable business opportunity for container depots, both existing and new — encouraging increases in Australia’s recycling rates,” said Brett Duncanson, Executive Chairman, Container Deposit Systems.

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