In a circular economy, reuse, repair and recycling becomes the norm, and waste a thing of the past. Collection and sorting are two critical drivers that prevent PET trays, tubes and pots from being sent for recycling. While collection improvements should be addressed at the municipal level, industry can support the common goal of a circular economy by improving sorting and recycling.
To recycle plastic packaging, plastic waste is pre-sorted at recycling facilities. In most recycling facilities, this is done by automated sorting technologies using near-infrared (NIR) optical sorters. One key limitation to near-infrared optical sorting is its inability to identify and separate plastics that contain carbon black, the most commonly used black pigment. This is because carbon black absorbs a significant amount of ultraviolet and infrared spectrum light, preventing the reflection of infrared light back to the sensor – and consequently blocking the recognition by an NIR scan. As a result, black PET end applications are not massively recycled today.
Make your product fly highThe industry has been exploring ways to improve the recyclability of black plastic articles. One major step forward is creating NIR-detectable black, which would ensure the ability to sort – and therefore recycle – any black packaging or end-application. Sukano has been at the forefront of this effort with ist newly formulated SUKANO® NIR-Black detectable and certified Masterbatch, which has now been tested by the authorized sorting equipment manufacturing companies according to the COTREP protocol. COTREP is an operational technical committee created by Citeo, Elipso, and Valorplast. It assists manufacturers in the development of recyclable plastic packaging solutions in France.
“Our equipment obtained a very good efficiency in sorting on both trays tested, clear PET and black detectable PET using MB from Sukano,” confirms Eric Westerhoff, Sales Director Plastics Recycling from Pellenc ST. “This demonstrates equivalent detectability, so we can confirm that trays containing SUKANO® Black Detectable Masterbatch are NIR-detectable, hence can be indeed sorted.”
Once packaging has been positively tested according to the COTREP protocol, the product is listed in the CITEO positive list, which will soon be launched. CITEO works to reduce the environmental impact of household packaging and paper by transforming them into new resources. Among the advantages of products being tested by COTREP and listed by CITEO is an exemption from the malus fee in France.
Going one step beyond market demandWithin industry circles, it is well-known that it is not only carbon black colorants that are unable to be detected under NIR light at sorting centers, but other colorants as well. As a pioneer and specialty leader in the polyester packaging masterbatches market, Sukano is going one step beyond, using its analytical labs and colorist expertise to broaden the NIR detectability concept to include and ensure any colored product can be designed for NIR detectability. In this way, Sukano delivers brand owners and convertors a comprehensive portfolio of detectable NIR colors to ensure any colored packaging or other end-applications are able to be successfully sorted and recycled.