Recyclers and municipalities are concerned about pigmented PET coming on the market, including some new amber-colored beer bottles. Now two trade groups are teaming up to research new ways for recyclers to automatically sort pigmented PET bottles.
The National Association for PET Container Resources and the American Plastics Council will partner for a two-year research effort, according to a Napcor news release.
"Our goal is to make sure there's a home for some of these new materials, so they're not precluded from recycling," said Pete Dinger, director of technology for Washington-based APC.
Luke Schmidt, president of Charlotte, N.C.-based Napcor, said the financial investment by all parties involved is "substantial," although he did not give a specific amount.
"The funding is designed to get the job done," he said.
Schmidt said the groups will find ways to "add to automated equipment already out there" to facilitate sorting between different pigments and resin types. For this reason, Dinger said the project is part research and part demonstration.
Dinger said the project is trying to take into account fundamental problems that have recently arisen for recyclers. For example, he said, the stream of recycling can be disrupted by new products such as beer bottles.
"The reality is that it's going to be a high-volume stream, and we need to embrace it and work with it," Dinger said.
He added that some solutions for these new materials include recycling the material back to beer distributors or working with the growing industry that uses recycled PET for insulation, where the color does not matter.
"The main focus is how do we get materials out of the waste stream and into the recycling stream," Dinger said. He added that finding the answer is an education process, hence the research effort between NAPCOR and APC.
Past Napcor initiatives have traditionally focused on expanding recycling, improving efficiency or promoting it, Schmidt said, and the current effort encompasses all areas.
"We're trying to let the market for plastics grow without artificial restraints," Dinger added.