Research into Sorting Food Contact and non-food Contact Plastics : VIDEO: Polymark Project to Boost High Value PET Recycling

Polymark pet plastics optical sorting recycling
© Polymark

A European project has developed a new technology enabling the identification and sorting of polymers, focusing on PET as a start, in the high-value plastics waste stream.

Polymark is a three-year research project funded by the European Commission under the European Union Seventh Framework Programme.

The project aims to maximise the value from recycling and the re-use of this valuable resource, while meeting EU regulation on the use of recycled PET for food-contact applications.

According to the organisation the technology it is developing will successfully distinguish between food-contact plastics and non-food contact plastics, aiming to further optimise the high-value waste stream and ultimately increase a more valuable use of these materials.

At a recent presentation made by the project to around 80 industry experts three technical presentations explained the project development and achievements.

Peter Reinig, group leader photonic sensing from the Fraunhofer IPMS, presented the work undertaken by former HERI on the development of the chemical marker.

Within Polymark a chemical food contact approved marker was identified which is used for coating on a bottle or on a label. After identification and sorting, this coated marker can be subsequently removed by existing recycling plant washing.

The focus of the second technical presentation, also presented by Reinig, was on the development of a spectral identification technology that detects the marker and decodes the information in order to separate the post-consumer plastic packaging.

This Polymark detection principle for sorting is based on UV-excitation and VIS-fluorescence. It is capable of sorting food-grade PET bottles at 3 m/s conveyor belt speed with spatial resolution of 10 mm.

Finally, Hans Eder, Head of R&D at Sesotec, explained the development and functionality of the Polymark industrial scale sorting system. Its marker detection setup is built from two basic units: a high energy UV light unit for excitation of the marker and a highly sensitive camera to detect the weak fluorescence signals emitted from the marker.

This Polymark sorting machine is able to achieve an output purity of 98% on the major input fraction.

A video looking at the project’s work can be viewed below

The Polymark partners include: Petcore Europe, European Federation of Bottled Waters (EFBW), European Association of Plastics Recycling and Recovery Organisations (EPRO), Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE), UK Health and Environmental Research Institute (UK-HERI), Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS), Sesotec GmbH, ColorMatrix Europe Ltd and 4PET Recycling.

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