Waste battery recycler, G&P Batteries, has recently installed Europe's first automated battery sorting machine at its facility in Darlaston, West Midlands.
Currently, batteries are sorted by hand at the recycling plant. However, it is hoped that this machinery, which has been developed by Swedish technology firm Optisort, could at least double G&P Batteries sorting capacity.
This machine will allow approximately five batteries per second to be sorted, and when running at full capacity, up to one tonne of batteries can be sorted per hour!
It is programmed to recognise and separate the most common battery brands, equating to approximately 80% of waste portable batteries collected. Less common battery brands and chemistries are then removed by hand.
A sensor captures images of each individual battery that passes along the main conveyer. These are compared to batteries that have been previously sorted, using compressed air to propel the batteries into different containers.
Data is also obtained through the machine about the brand, model, size and chemistry of all the batteries that are sorted, which can be used for analysis.
Managing director of G&P Batteries, Michael Green, said: "The vast majority of the volumes handled come from the most common brands and we've been searching for some time for the technology that can streamline the waste battery sorting process."
"We were very impressed by the speed and accuracy of the Optisort battery sorter, which enables us to maximise our sorting efficiencies whilst maintaining current staffing levels. We will always require the expertise of manual sorters, for larger batteries and packs, and for their experience in accurately identifying the lesser known battery brands and chemistries."
Optisort chief executive Hans Eric Melin, said: "This installation is as significant for Optisort as it is for G&P. The system we are commissioning in Darlaston is the first in the world using this kind of technology. The access to G&P's deep knowledge in waste battery sorting and collection, as well as their high requirements, has been instrumental in transposing our prototype machine into a full scale commercial system."
From 2012 onwards, the first mandatory battery collection target set under the EU's Batteries Directive will come into effect in the UK. The UK will be required to collect 25% of the average number of portable batteries that are placed on the market over the previous three years.
Data recently published by the Environment Agency, shows that the UK was making good progress towards meeting the target collection rate of around 32% during the first two quarters of the year. Efforts are being made to prepare the industry for 2015, when the target is set to rise to 45%.
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