Plastic sorting technology based on chemical markers

Invited by Petcore Europe and the European Federation of Bottled Waters (EFBW) to a Workshop held in Brussels on 15 March, more than 80 experts from the PET value chain, brand owners and researchers gained an insight into Polymark, a European project that 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.
We believe that sensor-based sorting technologies hold a key to enabling circular economy for plastics, providing high-grade sorting and boosting recycling quality and yield. Aside from the technical progress made during the Polymark project, we have seen how the entire value chain has embraced marker-based sorting as a crucial next step in improving plastics recycling“, explained consortium partner An Vossen from EPRO in the introduction video of the Polymark project.

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.

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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.
After the presentations, participants – physically present in the workshop or having joined via webinar – raised a number of questions and comments. Regarding the question if this project will be further developed commercially and also potentially translate into EU policy, Casper van den Dungen, Vice-President of the Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE), stated that the Polymark project is providing a first platform for the industry to communicate on tracer technologies. The recyclers are now encouraging Europe to harmonise and standardise the use of such innovative sorting solutions. It is important to keep in mind that there are still a number of barriers, and further discussions are needed amongst all interested stakeholders. “However, Polymark marks a starting point and gives a certainty that such innovation is possible”, he concluded.
All training presentations as well as further information are publically available on the Polymark website www.polymark.org.

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Bioplastics in Valencia

image_thumb[4]The demand of materials from renewable resources will be doubled from 2014 to 2019 to reach 1.4 million hectares for their production, without competing with the surface for food, nearing 1,240 million hectares, according to Constance Ißbrücker, from European Bioplastics, in a presentation during the International Seminar on Biopolymers and Sustainable Composites, held in Valencia, Spain, on 1 and 2 March.
Organised by AIMPLAS, the international seminar brought together more than 170 professionals to update the information about the use of biopolymers in food packaging, sport and automotive applications. Innovative materials from renewable sources such as castor-oil plant, sugar cane, corn and milk whey are already present in demanding applications such as surfboards and snowboards, in the automotive and construction sectors and in high-barrier and heat-resistant food packaging. BASF showed the new biodegradable coffee capsules developed for Cafés Novellimage_thumb[2] and Renault talked about its circular economy policies and the role that biocomposites play. New developments of biopolymers for 3D printing were also launched, as well as cords for the agriculture sector and nets for the fishing sector, thanks to API INSTITUTE. AIMPLAS also presented the results of the project OSIRYS, focused on biocomposites for façades and partitions to improve the air quality.
The second day began with a review of the current standards that regulate the use of biopolymers at industrial level and then there was a space for biotechnology and production of biopolymers from natural processes, such as fermentation or from microorganisms.

PE Films: a 1% rise in Europe

The PE film industry consumed over 7.4 million tonnes of polymer in 2016. Polyethylene film accounts for 80% of film products manufactured in Europe. The polyethylene film industry in Europe has continued to grow at a steady rate over recent years. Despite trends to use more linear and metallocene materials enabling film producers to make thinner films, the volume demand has continued to rise to reach over 7.4 million tonnes of polyethylene materials consumed for film extrusion in 2016, a 1% rise on the previous year.
Germany, the leading country for polyethylene film extrusion in Europe. has seen its film extrusion industry pretty much maintain its status throughout the financial crisis and the subsequent Eurozone crisis with demand in 2016 finally surpassing pre-crisis levels. In contrast Italy, which previously had been the largest market for the production of PE film, film extruders have struggled to regain volumes since the financial crisis with the market still 24% smaller than it was in 2007.
Linear grades of polyethylene, including metallocenes are now believed to account for the majority of feedstocks used by film extruders.  AMI estimates the split of demand amongst film extruders as 44% for LL grades, 43% conventional LDPE and 13% HDPE/MDPE.
AMI’s directory of Polyethylene Film Extruders in Europe provides detailed information on over 1,200 polyethylene film extrusion sites in Europe. For more information, contact Cathy Turbitt, from AMI.

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Industry claims for… a clear Eurppean industrial policy

More than 90 industry associations in Brussels signed a joint declaration urging European institutions to take measures to promote industry and create more jobs.The text is the following:

"Europe is the cradle of the manufacturing industry and has been at the forefront of industrial revolutions and technological innovations. The industry directly employs over 34 million people across all Member States, in supply chains comprising hundreds of thousands of SMEs and larger suppliers. It also indirectly accounts for millions of additional jobs in related sectors.

The European manufacturing industry has tremendous capacity for research and innovation, boasts a skilled workforce and has earned a global reputation for quality and sustainability. What it now needs is the swift and determined support of the European institutions and the Member States to create more jobs and growth in Europe.

The time has come to raise the alarm about the considerable challenges that we are all facing. Between 2000 and 2014, the share of manufacturing in total EU output fell from 18.8% to 15.3%, while 3.5 million manufacturing jobs were lost between 2008 and 2014. Meanwhile, countries around the world are putting industry at the very top of their political agendas. The “Make in India” strategy aims to ensure India is “the next manufacturing destination” and “Made in China 2025” seeks to turn China into the “leading manufacturing power”. The recent US shift towards “America First” will inevitablyhave a strong impact on their industrial policy.

At the beginning of his mandate, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker identified the reindustrialisation of Europe as one of his top priorities and confirmed the objective of increasing the share of industry in the European GDP to 20% by 2020. As we approach the preparation of the next Multiannual Financial Framework, it is vital for the European Commission to act and help the EU remain a competitive global industrial power playing in a fairer world market.

Therefore we, the European manufacturing industry, representing a diverse range of sectors, call on the European Commission to:

– Reaffirm its commitment to reaching the target of 20% of GDP from industry, with an ambitious and realistic timeline;

– Adopt an Action Plan to tackle the challenges that the industrial sectors are facing, in the framework of a Communication that would include concrete steps and milestones; and

– Commit to implement this Action Plan in a timely manner and regularly report on progress.


Member States and the European Parliament clearly stated their full support for a strong European industrial strategy via the European Council Conclusions calling to strengthen and modernise the EU’s industrial base (15 December 2016) and the Parliament Resolution on the need for a European reindustrialisation policy (5 October 2016).

We, the Signatories of this Joint Declaration, are ready to step up our cooperation with the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Competitiveness Council to define and implement this ambitious and coordinated European industrial strategy that will help safeguard the world leadership of European manufacturers and jobs in Europe."

To see the the official text and the signatories of this Joint Declaration, click HERE.

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Embalcer doubles PET strap extrusion capacity

Embalcer, the only Portuguese company producing plastic strap, invested 3 M€ in a new PET strapping extrusion line, reinforcing its position as one of the main European industries in this area.
This investment allows Embalcer to duplicate its production capacity, to reinforce its response ability with short delivery time and to present new references and new products to replace the stainless steel strapping.
image_thumb[1]New references include strapping with 19, 25 and 32 mm width (tensioning capacity up to 1500kg) for average/high loads for application in industries such as wood and furniture, ceramics, bricks and tiles, blocks and paver, corrugated, paper, aluminum profiles among others.
Embalcer has a strong position as a strategic partner in the packaging area, providing complete strapping solutions (strap, equipment ans service), and otlher end of line solutions for all kind of industries.
Embalcer will exhibiting in INTERPACK next May.

3D fab+print: additive manufacturing at the K 2016

Hardly any technology is currently attracting so much attention as additive manufacturing, which is also called generative manufacturing or 3D printing. Additive manufacturing processes are causing a stir among users in the design and packaging, aerospace and automotive industries as well as in the fields of dental and medical technology and machines and plant engineering. The processes promise great freedom of design and allow individual components to be manufactured with highly complex geometries and internal structures. A presentation at the K 2013 made many plastics processors aware of the opportunities presented by the direct additive manufacturing of plastic parts with thermoplastics. The technologies have matured to such an extent that they are now sometimes being used to complement or even replace conventional production processes, particularly in view of increasingly fast-changing consumer tastes and trends as well as in view of the new challenges that the industry is facing in regard to the individualisation of plastic products. Messe Düsseldorf established the 3D fab+print brand three years ago to focus especially on this topic of the future. The K 2016 fair will represent comprehensive opportunities for visitors to explore the possibilities and limits of additive manufacturing.

The 3D fab+print touchpoint in Hall 4 will be the central location for information about these topics. This presentation is being organised and manned by Messe Düsseldorf in cooperation with its partner, KCI Publishing BV – a leading knowledge, communications and information company based in the Netherlands. Technology providers and users, exhibitors and visitors, visionaries and practitioners may meet here to swap notes and drive this trend-setting topic forward.

Furthermore, in-depth presentations and discussions about this topic are to be staged in two half-day conferences to take place on Thursday, 20 October, and Tuesday, 25 October, from 9.00 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. respectively. The 3D fab+print Summits, also organised by KCI Publishing BV, will further focus on developments in materials as well as on the different methods used in the processes of additive manufacturing, including best practices, application scenarios, market potentials and costs. Contributions by such leading manufacturers as Stratasys, Arburg, Proto Labs and EnvisionTec as well as by experts from the fields of research and science will be ensuring that the topics will be competently illuminated from all sides. Each of the 30-minute presentations will be structured as short talks, which will be followed by question-and-answer sessions. The presentations on Thursday, 20 October, will be hosted by Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Gerd Witt from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Chair of Manufacturing Technology.

On the K 2016’s opening day on 19 October, a short presentation entitled, ‘Additive Manufacturing for Individualising Series Products’ is going to be given in Hall 6 during the theme day focusing on Industry 4.0 within the special show entitled, ‘Plastics Shape the Future’.

Additive manufacturing will be available to see, touch and try out on the ‘Wolfgang’ FabBus that will be parked in front of Hall 3 throughout the fair. The former double-decker bus from Berlin was converted within the framework of a EU funding project into a mobile laboratory by GoetheLab of the Aachen University of Applied Sciences. ‘Wolfgang’ will be bringing the latest scientific findings in the field of additive manufacturing straight from the laboratory to the exhibition centre and making the technology understandable and accessible. The FabBus’ lower deck is fitted out as a showroom with exhibits and components manufactured using all the usual methods of additive manufacturing. Its top deck is home to eight workplaces with their own CAD computers and 3D printers where visitors will be able to design their own objects, print them in 3D and take them home with them.

Last but not least, many exhibitors at the K 2016 will be presenting many other interesting innovations in the field of additive manufacturing. Messe Düsseldorf will be introducing these exhibitors in a special brochure to provide a direct overview for all interested visitors.

More plastics recycling in Europe

EU 28+2 recycled 6.3m tonnes, 39.5%, of its 15.9m tonnes plastic packaging waste in 2014, easily surpassing the EU’s minimum target of 22.5%. According to EPRO, the end destinations were as follows:

Recycling:                39,5%
Energy recovery:    38,5%
Landfill:                    22,0%

The recycling rate for plastic packaging rose from 34.7% in 2012 to 39.5% in 2014.
Except for Malta, all the EU 28+ 2 countries in 2014 exceeded the EU minimum targets of 22.5% recycling. 24 countries (19 in 2012) recycled more than 30%, 12 countries even surpassed 40%. In 2014, Czech Republic ranked on the top with a recycling rate of 52.1% followed by Germany, Slovenia, Sweden and Ireland.

64% of the post-consumer plastic packaging waste is generated from households, the remaining 36%, comes from the trade/ industry segment. The recycling rate for trade and industry sector reached 42.8% (37.6% in 2012), while recycling for the households segment obtained 37.7% (33%).

The following EPRO countries include all kinds of plastic packaging in their collection schemes for households: Germany, Finland, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden, either in a separate plastics fraction or together with other lightweight packaging (yellow bin). In other countries like Austria and UK, some parts of the country collect all plastic packaging while other regions concentrate on just rigid plastic packaging. Germany, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have in addition a deposit system for most of the beverage bottles. In Belgium, France and Switzerland, the EPR- systems focus on rigid plastics (bottles), but France is about to expand, step by step, the scope of the system to comprise all plastic packaging. How to sort, recycle and recover mixed streams of plastic packaging is a key topic for EPRO working groups. In addition, design for recycling is also a key issue for EPRO.

Energy recovery hit 38.5% in 2014 (34.5% in 2012). In total 78.0% (72.5%) of all plastic packaging waste was recovered in 2014, the balance going to landfills and incineration without energy recovery; 3.5m tonnes of plastic packaging ended in landfills last year. 

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There are still big differences on energy recovery results within Europe. Ten countries energy recovered more than 50% of their plastic packaging waste in 2014 and obtained all a total recovery rate (recycling + energy recovery) above 90%. This means that less than 10% was landfilled in these countries.  At the other end of the ranking list, we find a couple of countries that still does not energy recover any plastic waste. Ten countries landfilled more than 40% of their plastic packaging waste, among them Spain with 41%.

The recycling result for packaging of 39.5% is better than for other plastic applications. The overall recycling rate for plastics reached 29.7% in 2014. While 40% of all plastic products put on the market are packaging, packaging contributes by 62% to all plastic waste generated and as much as 81% to all plastics recycled. 7.7m tonnes of plastic waste were recycled in 2014, of which 6.3m tonnes packaging. Packaging thus lift the average recycling rates for all plastics in Europe, EPRO says.  

In 2014, the agriculture sector generated 1.4m tonnes of post-consumer non-packaging plastic waste. This equals 5% of all plastic waste generated within EU28+2. In 2014, 28.0% (26.4%) of this was recycled, while 31.1% (28.4 %) was energy recovered. The rest, 40.9% (45.2%) went to landfill.