Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) continues to increase in number, type and complexity. This creates different circular challenges and opportunities for recovery and recycling centres. Both extending product life and improving recycling are of great ecological importance.
With the SmartRe project, KULeuven wants to offer solutions for these challenges by means of innovative and technological developments such as intelligent vision systems.
For example, we developed SmartRe, a web application that uses text recognition to analyse a photo of the product label of a device and compares it with a database of product information, thus identifying the product model. With the app, employees at a recovery or recycling centre can easilyidentify a device via a mobile phone or tablet and immediately request specific product or recovery information. Adding information to the database is also possible.
We had our app tested extensively by De Kringwinkel recovery centres in Tienen and Vilvoorde. For five months, information was collected from washing machines in need of repair, while at the Galloo recycling company in Menen, photos were taken of washing machines in need of recycling.
KU Leuven (vertegenwoordigd door KU Leuven Research & Development en optredend voor Sustainable Engineering Research group)
SmartRe can help De Kringwinkel to select, repair and sell electronic devices by offering model-specific information (such as repair instructions) during the different phases of the repair process.
The app leads to better systematic documentation and exchange of knowledge and experience. This is valuable, especially given the growing complexity of devices (repair). The more information and the more accessible, the more WEEE can be recovered.
We already shared our knowledge with the SHAREPAIR project, in which an application was developed for repairing appliances during repair cafes.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
There are still many opportunities for better cooperation between repair and recycling centres to pass on repairable appliances and spare parts. Our tests showed that 37% of the washing machines that are recycled today still have potential for reuse.
Some repairers are difficult to convince to add their knowledge to the app: for fear of selling that information or because of the language barrier among non-native speakers. A motivated work leader who guides and monitors them in the use of the app proved to be the best approach.
In addition to valuable model-specific information, SmartRe can also collect quantitative information in the future, and thus provide more insight into the complexity of repairs or the need for certain spare parts.
424repaired washing machines
290similar model numbers
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
We want to make the app more accessible to and test it with a wider audience of voluntary repairers. We also want to explore how customers can use the app to repair something themselves.
Furthermore, we are exploring possible partnerships with other recycling shops and repair and recycling companies. In addition, we want to expand the app for a wider variety of electrical and electronic appliances, and explore the possibilities of integrating SmartRe into existing registration systems.