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ABB Robotics has signed an agreement to supply its robotic cells for Zume, a global provider of innovative compostable packaging, to help it upscale its production of sustainable packaging alternatives on a global scale.

California-based Zume’s packaging solution is a 100 per cent compostable packaging made from sustainably harvested plant material left over from agricultural production, including bamboo, wheat and straw. 

ABB will automate production, enabling the scale and speed required to make Zume’s packaging solution a cost-effective alternative to single-use plastics. 

The agreement sees ABB integrating and installing more than 1000 moulded fibre manufacturing cells (MFC), including up to 2000 robots at Zume’s customer’s sites worldwide over the next five years. 

ABB will leverage its program management capabilities and automation experts in its network of Global Solutions Centres to enable the scale, modularity and speed required to launch the solutions. 

“With Zume, we have the potential to remove trillions of pieces of plastic from the global marketplace, preserving scarce resources and supporting a low carbon world,” said Sami Atiya, president of ABB Robotics & Discrete Automation. 

“Today, robotic automation is expanding possibilities, making the world more sustainable through more efficient production that reduces energy use, emissions and production waste. 

“Our collaboration showcases what is possible when organisations that are committed to pursuing a low-carbon society work together.”

Zume has developed and patented an innovative manufacturing process to make compostable packaging for anything from food and groceries, to cosmetics and consumer goods. 

Containers are moulded from the plant material by Zume’s moulded fibre cells integrated with two ABB IRB 6700 robots, with each cell processing up to two tonnes of agriculture material every day – creating 80,000 pieces of sustainable packaging.

Working with ABB, Zume expects to equip factories with up to 100 robotic cells each. With the automation, speed and scalability provided by the MFC, each site would have the potential to process 71,000 tonnes of agriculture material annually, potentially producing up to two billion pieces of packaging each year. 

“By 2050, we estimate that the world’s oceans will have more plastic than fish, so it is critical that we move everyone away from single-use plastics,” said Alex Garden, chairman and CEO of Zume. 

“Using ABB’s global automation experts to develop and integrate automation solutions for our customers will revolutionise packaging, and demonstrate what sustainable manufacturing can look like.

“The flexibility and scalability of ABB’s robots enables an efficient automated manufacturing process, which means we can offer a viable, cost-effective, compostable alternative to plastic, and help manufacturers to become more environmentally-friendly.” 

A pilot project has been installed by Zume and ABB at Satia Industries Limited, one of India’s largest wood and agro-based paper manufacturers, creating a facility of 10 manufacturing cells that will process 20 tonnes of wheat straw daily.

“Our work with Zume and ABBB enables Satia Industries to meet and exceed expectations of our clients for high-performing, affordable and reliable products that are sustainably manufactured and easily composted,” said Dr Ajay Satia, chief managing director at Satia Industries. 

“Besides adding significant value to the company, we are able to support the planet by providing sustainable solutions to help our customers transition to more modern, reliable and customised products compared to those they use today.” 

Other planned pilor installations include Parason Group, a leading global pulp and paper machinery supplier also based in India, and Jefferson Enterprise Energy, the first 100 per cent renewable energy powered compostable packaging factory based in Texas, USA.

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