The scope is the implementation of an innovative technological solution for the separation process of electrical and electronic equipment waste (WEEE), eliminating the manual sorting step, in order to increase the efficiency of the process and the quality of the service provided by the company.
Regarding the waste electrical and electronic equipment separation process, the “seeker” intends to implement an automatic screening system that allows the separation of electrical and electronic equipment waste (WEEE) by different categories (see Annex I-WEEE Screening System by family). According to the general outline of this process (see Figure 1), it is intended to develop a technological solution adaptable to the various types of electrical and electronic equipment waste collected, allowing the automatic removal of these different types of electrical and electronic equipment waste, inside the containers where they are stored, preparing them for shipment. The containers used in this process are called “WEEE Closed Container” (see Annex II-WEEE Container Technical Data Sheet). In this way, the final objective of the technological solution to be applied to this specific process will be the elimination of the manual screening step usually carried out by the company’s employees allocated to this task, thus reducing their physical wear and tear while increasing the efficiency of the process and the quality of the service provided by the company.
The “seeker” is a company responsible for the management of electrical and electronic equipment waste and batteries and accumulators waste, with the intervention area located in Mainland Portugal and the Autonomous Regions, ensuring compliance with the “Extended Producer Responsibility”
Since 2006, it started its activity ensuring the sending of these types of waste for recovery and recycling. The non-profit “seeker” company is licensed by the Portuguese Government to manage integrated systems of Electrical and Electronic Equipment Waste – WEEE and Waste from Batteries and Accumulators – WBA.
In this specific case, the flow management process begins at Ecocenters, where the appropriate containers for this process (see Annex II-WEEE Container Technical Data Sheet) are made available to receive the material in question. In the next step, all of the equipment is transported to the Valuable Flow Management Platform and is subject to a manual screening process, where the WEEE mix is separated into different families, namely: refrigeration equipment (refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners); white goods (washing machines or dishwashers, microwaves); TV/Monitors (with CRT technology); LCD/Plasmas (flat screens); small household appliances (toasters, irons, coffee machines, watches, etc.), IT equipment (information technology appliances such as computers, radios, keyboards or mice, among others) and photovoltaic panels.
Currently, this process is done manually, by employees, and for that reason it is done in an incomplete way. Once consolidated, the material is shipped to different companies (the Recyclers*) that will ensure that the equipment is dismantled in a controlled manner and ensuring best practices and strict compliance with current legislation.
Since the company “seeker” is in the middle of the value chain for the management of this specific flow, this entity will always have the commitment to ensure the screening according to the stipulated families and to ensure, as far as possible, the quality of the material sent.
The screening process is entirely manual, as previously mentioned. Many of the tasks associated with this step require the handling of loads with heavy weights (e.g. White goods, TV/Monitors and Refrigeration Equipment) and a detailed and time-consuming selection of small WEEE (e.g. removal of small IT materials that are mixed with other equipment). In addition to the obvious difficulties in processing the material with these characteristics, the company also has a constraint on the human resources currently available to carry out these tasks, since there are a significant number of elements close to retirement age and/or presenting some type physical limitation, which conditions the performance of part of the operations.
* The Recycler is an entity responsible for processing the waste and must efficiently ensure the recycling of collected/delivered waste. Such destination should use technological procedures that guarantee compliance with the applicable legislation, namely the one that concerns environment protection.
Inside the container you will find materials weighing between 100g and 100Kg. These materials can be received intact or dismantled or only parts of equipment. Collected material heterogeneity creates an added difficulty in the screening process (see Annex III-Examples of Materials). Another issue is related to the different forms of packaging of the various pieces of equipment (pallets, small boxes or 30m3 boxes)- see Appendix IV – Cargo Conditioning with the description of the packaging types. This process could be complemented with the help of human resources, as long as, they do not have to perform tasks of high physical demand, where it could be possible the implementation of a machine/man solution. This assistance should mainly focus on taking packaging decisions or handling the technology implemented by the system in this task. Equipment movement and repetitive movements by operators must be eliminated.
The heterogeneity of the material to be collected, namely, its different shapes, dimensions, weights or state of conservation, as well as the permanent introduction of new equipment on the market will be a crucial aspect to consider throughout the period of use of the solution. Thus, the solution must have a constant learning function with the ability to identify new equipment and its subsequent integration in the system.
An initial dispatch strategy should be defined which is expected to be improved with the experience gained through the operation of the system implemented by the solver. For example, the transition from an initial system in which TVs are shipped in boxes, to a future system in which TVs are shipped on pallets.
The automation of this process allows the elimination of high physical demand manual tasks and simultaneously increase the efficiency and quality of the process, given that currently and under existing conditions it is not possible to screen all the existing families of equipment. Additionally, it is intended to generate relevant data to optimize the upstream and downstream processes.
The solution found should revolutionize the entire screening process, starting with the removal of material from inside the container used to transport the waste from the ecocenters and extending to the preparation stage of the different materials for shipping. Thus, it should have the flexibility to adapt to the heterogeneity of the equipment collected, the different forms of packaging and the different shipping conditions.
Parameters that will allow the seeker to understand that the mentioned solution is the best:
- A solution that meets the maximum possible requirements with the minimum of human resources;
- Operation productivity;
- Relevance of the information generated;
- Innovative character of the solution.
- Cause loss of quality and integrity of equipment;
- Do not eliminate the tasks of high physical wear and tear for the human resources involved in the process;
- Do not reach the minimum indicated productivity.
- Ensure a minimum processing capacity of about 9 tons/shift of 7h (average weight of 1500 Kg/cargo);
- Have the ability to move equipment up to 150 Kg;
- The solution must be able to perform all the desired tasks regardless of the position/arrangement of the various equipment inside the container;
- The process may have several phases, one for large equipment and the other for other equipment;
- The resulting products must comply with the specifications presented (see attached document with the families of existing equipment).
- The automated process can be complemented with the help of human resources. This assistance should cover decision making or handling of the technology implemented by the system. Equipment movement and repetitive movements by operators must be eliminated
- The solution must be versatile allowing to create and/or add new families of equipment and allow the recognition of new equipment that may have been launched on the market and its adjustment to the system. In this context, it is desirable that the syste
- The system should also generate data with relevant information to optimize the entire upstream process and also to assist in managing the stock for dispatch.
- The productivity of the process should not be dependent on secondary tasks performed by human resources;
- The quality and integrity of the material must not be affected by the operation to be implemented;
- All hygiene and safety issues must be ensured, safeguarding the integrity of human resources that are collaborating in the process;
- The solution should be designed for a useful operating area corresponding to 12 x 9 m2. This area includes the process area to be implemented and the preparation area for equipment to be packed (excluding the container parking area and the finished prod
- Description of the limitations of the technological solution;
- Detailed and justified cost.
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