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EU funding for black plastic sorting technology

By 25/07/2017News

Plastics recycler Luxus, Nordic processor Polykemi and plastics manufacturer One51 have secured a £1.29m investment from the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme for a project to sort black plastic waste.

Horizon 2020 programme “promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market”.

Black plastic cannot be identified by most sorting systems

The funding will go towards a two-year project aimed at replacing carbon black and many other pigments with near-infrared (NIR) detectable alternatives.

At present black plastic packaging – usually in the form of ready meal trays – is coloured using carbon black pigments, which do not enable the pack to be sorted by the existing optical sorting systems used widely in plastics recycling as the black pigment reflects little or no light.


Research has attempted to make a financial case for the use of a chemical additive to the black pigment in the trays to make the material detectable by sorting units, but recent reports suggest that packaging producers have been deterred by the additional cost involved in this solution (see story).

Black plastics alone represent 5% of packaging and 30% of WEEE and vehicle polymers, according to Luxus – all of which cannot be recycled.

Luxus will be collaborating with Polykemi, who will be formulating, processing and testing materials, while One51 will be offering its injection moulding manufacturing expertise.

Dr Christel Croft, technical director at Luxus, explained: “Our market strategy is based therefore, on a continuous positive development cycle or a ‘circular economy’ approach. This is where the packaging industry will use virgin detectable polymer to make its packaging and this with its product life of under a year, is recycled into high quality engineered plastics for the manufacturer of automotive and consumer durables to use – without waiting for returns from their own ‘end-of-life’ materials.”

Related Links

European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme 

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Source: Plastic