Automatised waste sorting yields Belgian Young Inventor Award

The 25-year-old Belgian engineer Victor Dewulf has won the European Young Inventor Award.  Together with a British partner he developed a robotic arm that recognises and sorts refuse thanks to artificial intelligence (AI). The device has already been sold to refuse giants in the UK and France.

Three years ago, the then 22-year-old set to work using a conveyor belt that set him back 40 euros on eBay and his neighbour’s rubbish.  Experimenting in his parents’ garden he developed a way of making waste recycling more sustainable and efficient by using an optical system that recognises the type of waste and a robotic arm that sorts it.

Together with his 27-year-old partner Peter Hedley Victor has now won the European Young Inventor Award. 

The Belgian hit on the idea after visiting a recycling plant as part of his environmental engineering studies at Imperial College London.  Victor grew up in Etterbeek in Brussels but has been living in the UK for many years.  It’s here he saw how labour-intensive waste recycling was and decided to do something about it. Together with Peter Hedley he wrote his dissertation on the automatization of waste recycling and when he later came up with an idea to automatise waste recycling he immediately enlisted the help of his friend from uni. Peter, who is also a computer engineer, helped him to develop an algorithm that recognises six types of waste thanks to AI and a robotic arm to sort the waste.  The two young men established a start-up Recycleye and raised over a million euros.  Together with Microsoft and computer hardware firm Nvidia the device has been professionalised.  Three years on Recycleye has signed contracts with UK, French and Italian waste recycling giants.  Seventeen AI systems and five types of robotic arm have been developed. What used to be to an unhealthy job done manually at great cost can now be automatised.

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