STADLER and ZenRobotics have built a groundbreaking new sorting center for Remeo Oy, Finnish waste management specialist. While STADLER designed and built the sorting facility in collaboration with Remeo, ZenRobotics was responsible for supplying the AI-based robotic systems for waste sorting. The sorting center for the greater Helsinki area (Finland) impresses with state-of-the-art technology based on artificial intelligence (AI), innovative processes and a high degree of automation. The plant also includes lines for sorting commercial and industrial waste as well as for sorting construction and demolition waste - a first in the industry. Despite all the difficulties caused by the corona pandemic, the plant was even completed ahead of schedule - an achievement
Remeo's new sorting facility was inaugurated on February 14, 2022 at a ceremony hosted by Remeo CEO Johan Mild and Remeo Business Director Mauri Lielahti. Finnish Economy Minister Mika Lintillä cut the ribbon and officially declared the plant open. In his speech, he emphasized the great progress the plant represents for the Finnish circular economy. A light and music show symbolized the new circular economy era in Finland and the innovations in this field. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, the event was broadcast as a live stream. Online audiences were also able to view footage of the facility's construction and a virtual tour of the site.
A unique design challenge: high degree of automation and two systems in one
The construction of the new sorting system from Remeo presented the designers with unique and complex challenges. For the first time, a plant designed for 30 t/h for commercial and industrial waste was to be combined with a plant designed for 15 t/h for construction and demolition waste. A high degree of automation was also important. The solution to this task required great ingenuity, innovative thinking and extremely close cooperation between the three partners Remeo, STADLER and ZenRobotics.
"By combining our experience in C&D waste with STADLER's in-depth know-how of the C&I waste line and ZenRobotics' impressive knowledge in the field of robotics, this became a great collaborative project with very good results," explains Mauri Lielahti, Business Director for Processing at Remeo. “What we liked about STADLER was the ability to innovate, the will to look for new solutions and the willingness to listen to the customer's needs. We have been working continuously on further developments with ZenRobotics since 2014. Based on the experiences with our previous recycling plant, we knew what to do and what not to do. Our cooperation was completely unproblematic.”
The result is a construction that “combines ballistic separators, screening drums, 3D drums, optical sorters, wind sifters, sorting robots, magnetic separators, eddy current separators and the robots from ZenRobotics, resulting in the most modern sorting plant in the European Union,” says Nikolaus Hofmann, sales engineer at STADLER.
Juha Mieskonen, Sales Manager at ZenRobotics, adds: “The Remeo plant is equipped with 12 gripping robots that pick up pieces of material weighing up to 30 kg from the bulky construction and demolition waste. All together manage up to 24,000 gripping processes per hour. The robots therefore take over all heavy lifting operations that would be neither feasible nor safe for humans. The robots sort various fractions on the spot, including wood, metal, stones and plastic of different qualities. With the help of numerous sensors and artificial intelligence, you can train them to recognize new factions if necessary. The plant consists of two different processing lines with two downstream robotic systems on each line. This is the largest fully robotic MRF
"The most innovative aspects can be described with the principle 'Form follows function'," explains Nikolaus Hofmann. “The function of the lines was decisive in every single design decision. Construction and demolition waste, for example, tends to clog or block the system, particularly at the perpendicular transition areas of the conveyor belts. So we avoided it in the design as much as possible. To do this, we designed a narrow and long building instead of a shorter, more square structure.”
The planning approach also included the search for maintenance solutions "to ensure that a reliable and safe sorting system was created for the future," says Nikolaus Hofmann. “The system is designed for easy maintenance, almost every engine can be reached via walkways and maintenance platforms. Similar modules have been grouped together wherever possible, and the layout also allows for future expansion. The dedusting system with several extraction points distributed over the entire facility and two large filter units outside the building help to keep the facility clean.”
The “form follows function” approach proved to be extremely efficient. The customer's requirements were implemented in the design to his full satisfaction: "Quality, user friendliness and ease of maintenance are all excellent. The solutions are functional and user-oriented, which we really appreciate,” sums up Mauri Lielahti.
Close cooperation: the key to successful and extremely fast completion
The success of such a unique and complex project is based on the remarkable mutual trust and close cooperation between Remeo, STADLER and ZenRobotics - from the development phase to the completion of the building and the system.
Nikolaus Hofmann explains: “In the development phase, intensive communication and numerous iterations are required to find the best solution. The close cooperation between Remeo and STADLER was fantastic. All special requirements for the sorting process and the arrangement of the sorting machines have been precisely defined. The communication and information flow on the part of ZenRobotics was also excellent, enabling us to develop smoothly functioning solutions.”
Mauri Lielahti adds: "It's no secret that the pandemic was a challenge for each and every one of us and also presented our project with additional challenges. All planning was done in online meetings. This required consistent and careful communication, but it worked well. STADLER's sales team was involved all along and we think it was one of the main reasons for the success of this project. We felt that the sales team and production team really worked hand in hand. In our experience, this is a guarantee for a successful project.”
The actual construction process was also complicated by the pandemic, starting with the arrival of the assembly team. Nikolaus Hofmann explains: “After arriving in Finland, the team first had to be in quarantine and then work in closed groups. But they did it really well!” The logistics were also affected, so that the “coordination of all external suppliers and the transport of all units to the construction site were a challenge. The transport of some oversized items was delayed due to problems on the ferry. We had to improvise a lot and focus all efforts on staying on schedule.”
Despite these difficulties, the project was completed three and a half months ahead of schedule. "That was a great achievement, especially during the pandemic," says Juha Mieskonen. “Set-up and assembly went without a hitch: the daily processes were consistently well coordinated. The communication between all three parties worked very well and contributed greatly to the successful completion of the plant.”
A major project at European level with a major impact on Finnish waste management
The sorting system from Remeo is unparalleled in Europe. The plant uses cutting-edge technology, thanks to which, for the first time, material recycling will play a much greater role than energy recycling. The capacity of the plant is 120,000 tons of construction and demolition waste and 60,000 tons of commercial and industrial waste per year. The waste is processed into high-quality raw material alternatives. This brings them back to life and does not need to be burned.
Remeo's sorting plant will be able to cover more than 30 percent of the total waste recycling needs in the Greater Helsinki area. In this way, by increasing the domestic recycling capacity, this plant ensures that waste no longer has to be exported from Finland. Remeo's facility enables efficient recycling of the waste in the immediate vicinity of the point of origin, so that emissions caused by transport can be reduced due to the short distance. With this efficient recycling system, Remeo also supports its customers in achieving the legally prescribed minimum recycling rate of 70%.
The future of the circular economy
A modern recycling infrastructure is essential for the rapid transition to a circular economy. The recycling industry is increasingly turning to advanced technologies to meet ever-increasing waste sorting demands while increasing sales. Remeo's MRF is a prime example of collaboration between pioneering companies developing efficient and innovative solutions that pave the way for the future of waste management.