On a late Sept night in 2007, Jufo Peltomaa was at his home in Helsinki watching a documentary on the Discovery Channel in which a B52 Bomber was crushed and then manually sorted by a large group of workers. As he watched the bored workers slowly pick out bits of scrap metal from the dusty factory floor, an idea came to him. He immediately sent a message to his two colleagues, Tuomas Lukka and Harri Valpola, proposing a plan that would shape their lives for the next seven years.

Last month, a recycling centre opened in a small industrial park on the outskirts of Peltomaa's hometown. Tonnes of construction and demolition waste were brought into the warehouse and three workers were placed by the conveyor belt, ready to sort through the rubble. As the conveyor belt rumbled into life and the first load of rubbish began to make its way towards the workers, Peltomaa, Lukka and Valpola knew they were about to witness a revolution in recycling. For the first time, waste was to be sorted by artificially intelligent robots.