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UK group develops colorant to ease recycling of black plastics

By: EUROPEAN PLASTICS NEWS

February 14, 2013

BANBURY, ENGLAND -- A consortium of companies in the United Kingdom has developed a process to ease recycling of black plastic packaging.

The group of companies, including Nextek, Sharpak, Faerch Plast and Linpac, has worked in conjunction with WRAP, the Banbury-based recycling body, to develop a new colorant that can be detected by near infrared (NIR) technology.

In the past it was not possible to separate black plastics from a mixed plastics waste stream. The new black colorants can be detected by NIR spectroscopy – picking out black plastic packaging waste and allowing for sorting by polymer type. The colorants work in amorphous and crystalline PET, polypropylene, high density polyethylene, polystyrene and PVC materials.

Alan Davey, director of innovation at Linpac Packaging, said: "The new colorants mean that black packaging, such as meat trays, can now be automatically detected and recovered so that they can be used in new applications as substitutes for virgin plastics. Additionally they offer improvements in recycling revenues as well as savings in carbon emissions and landfill volumes."

The new technology can work on existing recycling machinery with only minor software tweaks – against black conveyor belts, the black plastic items can be mistaken for clear items.