Embracing industrial IoT-based technologies to deliver cost-effective and modular waste recycling solutions that help create a sustainable environment

With rapid industrialisation and changing demographics across the globe, there has been a severe disturbance in preserving environmental sustainability due to the rise in hazardous, industrial, and radioactive waste. To curb these growing waste volumes, the European Commission has re-defined its environmental policies that push end users to focus on recycling waste. The EU’s Circular Economy has set an ambitious target to recycle 65% of the municipal waste and 75% of the packaging waste and reduce landfill to a maximum of 10% of municipal waste by 2030. In addition, the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which aims to reduce CO2 emissions, helps promote the recycling waste market in Europe and across the world.

As government bodies introduce stringent regulatory norms, manufacturers must create a sustainable environment by adopting advanced automation that helps recycle waste and refurbished products to address the growing demand for commodities. Being an early adopter of advanced technologies, more than 50% of Europe’s recycling plants are automated.

Despite government initiatives to promote a green environment and advancements in automation solutions, some of the challenges faced by the recycling industry are as follows:

  • Lack of localisation – As waste composition and management methods vary region-wise, it is critical to develop local-specific solutions. Although manufacturers offer holistic recycling solutions, they must focus on the development of custom-made solutions that address local market requirements due to regional diversity.
  • Need for advanced recycling technologies –These technologies are critical, especially for complex waste streams such as the waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and end-of-life vehicles (ELVs), which need solutions with enhanced recycling rates to help meet the set targets.
  • Lack of sufficient funds – This remains a serious concern, predominantly for developing countries with large volumes of waste and insufficient recycling capacities. As developed countries export their waste into these countries, it is critical to implement stringent laws on trading volumes and increase the inflow of investments to reduce waste volumes.
  • Separate collection at source and logistics infrastructure – The industry requires proper infrastructure to collect, segregate, and transport waste materials. In addition, enhanced waste separation methods that help to improve operational efficiency are required.

Globally, Europe has the highest degree of automation adopted across its recycling plants, and its OEMs have a strong presence in the recycling waste market. They offer an extensive range of advanced automation equipment that represents an estimated 50% market share in terms of automation revenue. However, in Asia, automation levels are comparatively lower due to the following: (i) low labour cost to perform recycling processes manually, (ii) preference for open dismantling techniques in the WEEE segment, and (iii) waste streams that require less automation – recycling paper, metals, and plastics.

While assessing the key automation products used in the recycling waste market, controls, human machine interface (HMI), motors, and drives are identified as widely adopted by end users. The below illustration explains the application of these automation products across various waste recycling equipment.


In terms of trends, controls that include programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and industrial PCs have been gaining traction over the years. This is primarily due to the functionality they offer, which allows for greater machine control and helps enhance performance for end users. HMI is closely interlinked with PLC and is widely used to operate and monitor plant equipment. HMI demand is likely to remain optimistic and will rise in parallel to the rise in the use of controls. However, the high cost of the solution is likely to impede wider adoption by end users. With the development of hybrid HMI-PLC, the recycling waste market holds promising growth prospects, provided prices are competitive. Drives and motors are the other widely used products that have experienced increased adoption as a result of the development of low-cost solutions. With the rising need to reduce energy consumption and a drop in solution cost, end users are encouraged to adopt drives and motors across their plants. Frost & Sullivan anticipates a higher degree of automation from the WEEE and the ELV waste streams, primarily due to the significant end-user investments. Therefore, this provides a greater revenue opportunity for automation vendors from these segments.

With the emergence of digitalisation and the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), embracing these technologies across the recycling waste market will help achieve regulatory targets and create a sustainable environment. IIoT technologies, such as intelligent sensors, cloud computing, Big Data and analytics, and industrial mobility, to name a few, aid in smart monitoring, which helps to reduce cost and deliver high-quality services. Moreover, end users are gradually shifting to custom-made modular solutions that are embedded with intelligence. They perceive that modularisation offers the twin-benefit of flexibility and cost-effectiveness. This also helps to expand market scope by extending the solution to small and medium enterprises (SMEs); also, it can be used by diverse waste streams.

In this research service, Frost & Sullivan captures the transformation of the European recycling waste market, with a focus on automation. It highlights the role of IIoT to address key market requirements, including modularisation, enhanced machine control, and improved equipment performance, as well as the fulfilment of regulatory norms.

About Frost & Sullivan

For six decades, Frost & Sullivan has been world-renowned for its role in helping investors, corporate leaders and governments navigate economic changes and identify disruptive technologies, Mega Trends, new business models and companies to action, resulting in a continuous flow of growth opportunities to drive future success.

Frost & Sullivan

For six decades, Frost & Sullivan has been world-renowned for its role in helping investors, corporate leaders and governments navigate economic changes and identify disruptive technologies, Mega Trends, new business models and companies to action, resulting in a continuous flow of growth opportunities to drive future success.

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