Prototyping the future of recycling

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Lasso Chief Technical Officer Phil Sanders explains how we're building the first domestic closed-loop recycling appliance.
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In June 2019 ReCircle, now Lasso, raised almost GBP550,000 via crowdfunding with CrowdCube to facilitate the development of a domestic recycling appliance prototype.

The prototype under development will accept a variety of plastic, glass and metal domestic containers, keeping them separate by material type and colour before the labels are removed and the items are cleaned and dried.
Once the containers are cleaned and dried each material type is separately sent through a bespoke processing system to convert them into products that meet or exceed recycling industry standards before being separately stored ready for on demand collection.
As the products stored in the appliance meets or exceeds industry standards, they can be fed straight back into manufacturing processes. Therefore, the used-materials processed through the appliance do not get diverted into landfill or incineration due to contamination as with the current system. The products collected from your Lasso appliance will be closed-loop recycled, that is remanufactured into an item with the same value as the original.

The Lasso recycling appliance is unique. Therefore, the development process started with a blank piece of paper. A large amount of time pre-crowdfunding had already been spent researching different industrial processes and the associated equipment that is currently used to detect, sort and process many different materials. The team then looked at how each of these processes could be potentially applied as a miniaturised, automated, maintenance-free domestic version.

Where expertise was required, we researched and approached like-minded groups internationally to partner with to begin developing and delivering these particular aspects of the system.

The sensing system is being developed primarily in the UK by a team who have previously won awards for their work developing miniaturised, cost-effective material detection systems.

The cleaning system is being developed in Italy by a team that usually develop washing and drying systems for global appliance manufacturers.

Transfer, automation, processing and storage is being developed in Australia by a team of R&D product design engineers with global experience in white goods.

Project management of the appliance as well as responsibility for combining these individual systems into a prototype appliance lies with this same Australian team.

To design, develop and build the individual systems as well as the integration into the final prototype several traditional and emerging technologies have been utilised. The teams use industry-leading CAD systems to develop the first concepts. Extensive use of 3D printing technology to produce early concept prototypes allows issues to be highlighted early in the development phase that can then be resolved and retested. The use of 3D printers allows several concepts and iterations of the concepts to be produced quickly and cost effectively. Once these concepts are proven and developed further, they can either be fabricated using 3D printing or outsourced to more traditional fabrication processes.

The subsystems are fabricated then bench-tested, either as a totally stand-alone unit or as part of a larger ‘breadboard’ system. During testing the subsystems are further developed and optimised until they function as required. At this point they are ready for integration into the prototype.

Once integrated into the prototype the functionality in conjunction with the other subsystems can be developed and optimised both mechanically and electronically until the entire appliance functions holistically.

Currently we are in the stand-alone/breadboard testing phase. By the end of 2020 integrating the subsystems into the prototype framework and tuning and debugging the appliance will begin. The fully functional prototype will be ready in Q1 2021. The project’s next phase, called commercialisation, will take the lessons learned from the prototype and run a further optimisation loop to make the appliance more compact, increase its efficiency resulting in a more robust and reliable unit that can be safely installed in a domestic situation.

Philip Sanders

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