Belgian Engineer Victor Diolf Finalist of Young Innovator Award 2022 –

  • Belgian inventor Victor Duluf and his British colleague Peter Headley have been shortlisted by the European Patent Office (EPO) for an innovation award for their AI-based recyclable technology.
  • The intelligent system uses a robotic arm to identify and sort waste, both of which increase the proportion of recycled waste and make recycling more financially attractive.
  • Their invention automatically separates waste at very high speeds using computer visual recognition.
  • Their start-up recyclers are currently installing the system in waste treatment centers in Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy.

The European Patent Office (EPO) has nominated Belgian engineer Victor Diolf along with his British partner Peter Headley for the Young Inventors Award. They have developed a system for detecting and sorting waste using artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. Starting from an early prototype dealing with waste recovered from a dumpster and a conveyor belt, Victor Duluth and Peter Headley have developed a recognition and selection method based on artificial intelligence. Their promising agency has already raised millions of euros.

Their inventions are divided into two categories, which can be used separately or together with the waste treatment plant. On the one hand, a computer visual recognition system based on artificial intelligence for accurate identification of different types of waste, and on the other hand a robotic arm running on six axes that independently selects recyclable components in the waste moving on a conductor. The purpose of the belt is to increase the purity and therefore the value of compressed waste, thereby increasing the financial incentive for recycling.

“By recognizing and sorting their dual waste, Victor Duluth and Peter Headley are making a significant contribution to reducing global untreated waste and moving toward a circular economy.” EPO President Antonio Campinos said while announcing the finalists for the 2022 Young Inventors Award. “The speed at which they’ve built their innovation, but the speed at which they’ve turned it into a commercial product is remarkable and we look forward to pursuing their next adventure.”

Belgian and British inventors are among the three finalists for the award, created by EPO to encourage next-generation innovators. Aiming at global innovators 30 years of age or younger, it recognizes initiatives that use technology to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Its winners Young Innovator Award 2022 will be announced on June 21 at a virtual event.

Intelligent waste management from manual selection

According to the World Bank, two billion tons of municipal solid waste is generated in the world every year and its burning or disposal has a huge impact on the environment. However, it is difficult to sort waste for recycling, a major challenge is to separate plastics and other materials, recover from the rest of the waste, a process mainly carried out by hand, and whose high cost is prohibited. Using AI to automate the process, Victor Duluth and Peter Headley want to increase the ratio of recycled waste.

“Our visual recognition system works on the fastest waste carriers at a wastewater treatment plant, which our competitors cannot”. Mr. Headley says. ” Prioritizing waste collection by AI allows us to increase our efficiency by almost 300%, which is a great help for sorting centers and their margins.

60 images per second to detect waste

The electronic visual recognition system, called Recycleye Vision, uses a smartphone-quality camera mounted on top of the waste carrier to take 60 pictures per second. These are then analyzed by an algorithm, which makes it possible to prioritize the collected waste. The instructions are then transmitted to a robotic arm so that it can sort the selected waste. The solution makes it possible for a carrier to run 55 collections per minute.

The invention began in 2018, when Victor Duluth visited a reusable facility as part of his master’s course in environmental engineering. Surprised by the hard work of the selection process, and inspired by his friend Peter Headley, a computer science student, Mr. Duluth, adopted the content of an automated waste sorting system using computer vision as his thesis. Once graduated, the two friends take different directions but Mr. Duluth’s thesis begins to draw attention. In 2019, Mr. Duluth called on Mr. Headley to create a prototype of his computer vision-based waste identification system.

After testing their first computer vision system in Peter Headley’s parents’ garage – a trash-covered treadmill to mimic a waste conveyor, Mr. Duluth and Mr. Headley started their company, Recycle, in 2019. The following year, they managed to raise 935,000 euros and began building their robotic pick-up arm in partnership with specialized company FANUC. By the end of 2020, they have already established recycling vision systems in France and Great Britain with excellent results for waste recovery agencies Bifa and Re-Gen. To date, they have provided 17 visual recognition systems and five robotic weapons, with more projects underway.

The global smart waste management market value was € 1.5 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach 5.4 billion euros by 2026.

Editors note

About the inventors

Victor Duluth, 25, was born in Belgium and moved to the UK in 2017 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Bath, then a postgraduate degree in environmental engineering and business management at Imperial College London where he also earned a doctorate. Application of computer vision waste. He joined Goldman Sachs in 2018-2019. In 2019, he co-founded Recycleye with Peter Headley, of which he is currently the CEO. Victor Duluth has already won awards, such as the BP Centurion Award or the Lettia Chiti Centenary Memorial Award, and was selected in the Forbes 30 under 20 years of 2021 under the Social Impact category.

Peter Headley, 27, from the UK, graduated in 2017 from the University of Bath with a degree in civil engineering and a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Imperial College London. During his studies in civil engineering, he worked as a design engineer at Apex Circuit Design Ltd, leading and training a team to transform motor racing circuit simulation software. After his masters, Peter Headley worked at the Art Gallery applying computer vision. He co-founded Recycleye in 2019 with Victor Duluth, where he is now CTO.

Find videos and visuals by Victor Duluth and Peter Headley.

Related Young Innovator Award A

Made by the European Patent Office Young Innovator Award In 2021 to inspire the next generation of inventors. Aiming at global innovators 30 years of age or younger, it recognizes initiatives that use technology to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The winner will be rewarded with 20,000 euros, with the second and third place finalists receiving 10,000 and 5,000 euros, respectively. An independent jury of finalists for the former European Innovator Award selects the finalist and the winner. The EPO will present the award for the first time during the Virtual European Innovation Awards ceremony on June 21. Unlike traditional European Inventor Award categories, Young Innovator Award finalists do not need to hold a European patent to be eligible for the award. Learn more about eligibility and selection criteria for the Young Innovator Award.

About the European Patent Office

With about 6,400 employees, the European Patent Office (EPO) is one of the largest public institutions in Europe. It is headquartered in Munich and has offices in Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and Vienna. The EPO was created to strengthen patent cooperation in Europe. Through its centralized patenting process, inventors can access high-quality patent protection in less than 44 countries, covering a market of approximately 700 million people. EPO is a global authority for patent information and patent search.


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