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Modern procedures and digital processes of Industry 4.0 are having a wide-ranging impact on the recycling economy. This includes companies in the recycling industry having to intensively address significantly altered material flows and a considerably greater diversity of materials. The branch is increasingly using innovative methods and technologies to tackle the tasks facing it, which have become broader and more demanding.
From conception and development to manufacture, use and maintenance all the way to recycling: Entire value-creation chains can be optimised and complete product lifetime cycles supported with the smart, digitally networked systems of Industry 4.0. New production technologies at the same time make possible greater miniaturisation of the materials used. On top of this, ever more heterogeneous combinations from a large number of different materials are coming about. In the area of material separation, conventional recycling processes are increasingly running up against the borders of that which is technologically and economically possible. For the field of practice, this means: Together with Industry 4.0, a Recycling Economy 4.0 has to be developed, including smart recycling.
The development of electromobility is one example of increasing material diversity and complexity. Here, materials for the construction of light electronic vehicles are being reinforced with fibreglass and carbon fibres to strengthen their structure. This is resulting in new composite materials which, after being produced along classic lines, will also need additional special processing. The situation is similar with wind energy and solar facilities, where there are still a host of unanswered questions surrounding what suitable recovery would look like.
The term Industry 4.0 was coined in 2011 for a German high-tech project and now stands internationally for the fourth industrial revolution.
With regard to the fundament changes that industrial production technologies are undergoing, recycling is called upon to react to the rapid pace of change with flexible processing procedures. The task in all this will first be to adapt to changing quantities of input. Secondly, however, the raw materials recovered through recycling must meet the requirements of customers. The task here is to attain higher levels of separating precision in the sorting of material in the value-creation chain. Modern sensor-based sorting processes offer promising strategies making possible rapid, reliable material recognition. A dialogue early on with manufacturing industry is also indispensable. This will not only help find answers to questions surrounding later processing of raw materials, but at the same time make crucial contributions to the development of products that can be easily recycled.
In the field of logistics as well, solutions pointing in the right direction for the future need to found for a Recycling Economy 4.0. This also includes the use of commercial vehicles that are environmentally friendly and that are operated with natural gas, biogas or battery. These offer alternatives to conventional diesel vehicles and are a convincing technological response to the stricter requirements applying to inner city traffic. Thus, beginning in the middle of this year, REMONDIS will be launching six high-tech, gas-driven collection vehicles in North Rhine-Westphalia. They will run on biogas and make it possible to collect material at virtually climate-neutral levels. Additional advantages of these environmentally friendly vehicles are their very low levels of emissions and quiet, efficient operation.
One objective of Industry 4.0 is to integrate customers and business partners more tightly into business and value-creation processes.
Parallel to this, REMONDIS is also engaged in the field of e-mobility. The Bremerhaven disposal company BEG, the vehicle manufacturer FAUN Umwelttechnik and the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence are working together on a collection vehicle that has a completely electrical drive. Dubbed “BEAR – Battery-Electric Waste Disposal with Robot Support“, the project is being supported by the Federal Ministry of the Environment. A prototype of the vehicle can be seen at IFAT 2018. Directly following the trade fair, BEG will be testing the trial vehicle in real-life operations for at least twelve months. The goal is a battery life of at least eight individual years and virtually autonomous charging properties through the use of robots. Findings gained in the project are later to be adopted with electrically driven commercial vehicles in other sectors as well.