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.

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.

Bottles and oceans

Selfridges, the UK department store, has announced it will no longer be selling single-use plastic bottles, as part of a lauched by the image_thumbZoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Marine Reserves Coalition (MRC) and supported by Greenpeace UK. Selfriges said it previously sold around 400 thousand plastic water bottles a year in its stores and restaurants. Instead, Selfridges will provide bottled water in glass and water taps to refill reusable plastics bottles (see image).

The British Plastics Federation (BPF) has criticized this innitiative. Philip Law, the BPF’s Director General, commented: “The availability of water in portable, lightweight bottles promotes good health and can be critical in emergency situations. Plastic products do not litter themselves onto our streets or into our oceans, people do". Law highlighted the recycling results: “During 2014, nearly 60 percent of PET plastic bottles in the household waste stream were collected for recycling”.

To see the Selfridges campaign, click HERE
To read the BPF position, click HERE.

APPE Sale to Plastipak completed

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The sale of APPE, the former packaging division of La Seda de Barcelona, to Plastipak Packaging Inc. has now been completed.  Following the approval granted by the European Commission, APPE is rebranded Plastipak Packaging with immediate effect.
Founded in 1967 and is headquartered in Plymouth, Michigan, USA, Plastipak Packaging operates now than 37 sites in the United States, South America and Europe, with a total of over 5,000 employees, to produce design and manufacture rigid plastic containers for food, beverage, and other consumer products.
The acquisition will significantly strengthen Plastipak’s position in Europe, combining fifteen  production facilities in twelve countries. Martin Hargreaves is appointed Managing Director Europe.

airpop – a new name for EPS

Expanded Polystyrene has had many names in Europe: Styropor, PSE, Piepschuim or Polyfoam – to name just a few. We have now put an end to this variety. EUMEPS Construction proudly introduces a common European name for EPS: airpop® engineered air.
Why give a new name to an internationally established material like EPS? Simply because the name airpop immediately brings to mind what the material is made of: air. A lot of air. 98 % air, to be precise. Just a tiny fraction is made of synthetic material, which expands to 50 times its own volume. airpop® easily provides sustainable and affordable construction and insulation by keeping material costs, weight, CO2 emissions and heating costs low.

The airpop®-campaign is a joint industry initiative of EUMEPS, of European airpop®-converters, of their respective National EPS Associations and of European EPS raw material producers. The creative concept was developed by the communication agency Ogilvy & Mather, Frankfurt / Germany.
airpop® represents an industry of approx. 600 mainly small and medium sized converters in Europe. They process about 1.300.000 tons of raw material into airpop® products. The main applications are building and construction as well as packaging parts.

imageThe airpop®-campaign is a joint industry initiative of EUMEPS, of European airpop®-converters, of their respective National EPS Associations and of European EPS raw material producers. The creative concept was developed by the communication agency Ogilvy & Mather, Frankfurt / Germany.
airpop® represents an industry of approx. 600 mainly small and medium sized converters in Europe. They process about 1.300.000 tons of raw material into airpop® products. The main applications are building and construction as well as packaging parts. For more information about airpop®, click the logo.

Sipa acquires Automa PET activities

imageSIPA has acquired all activities related to production of injection-stretch-blow molding (ISBM) equipment at Automa S.p.A.. The acquisition will enable the company to extend its existing offering in single-stage ISBM systems to produce containers for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, personal care products, and spirits.

Automa ISBM machines are designed for production of containers in smaller lots than SIPA’s existing units, with features that enable quick change-overs between diffferent product configurations. They are also characterized by their compact lay-outs and high energy efficiency. The three-station ISBM 50SR unit, for example, with a 500-kN injection clamp force, has a rated power consumption of just 18.5 kW/h for machine, himageot runner system and PET loader. The 800-kN ISBM 80SR, which has four stations (separate stations for stretch-blow and discharge), consumes 20 kw/h.

SIPA has specialized for more than 25 years in complete manufacturing lines, including molds, for PET containers. It has production operations in Italy and China. The company’s offering includes preform and bottle design, engineering and industrialization up to the supply of injection and blowing molds for any type of PET machines in the market.

PET trays environmental dilemma

Today the design of most PET trays makes them difficult to recycle in the existing waste streams. In the future this situation can be reversed by changing the trays’ design and allow their recycling. PRE (Plastics Recylers Europe) will develop recycling guidelines specific for PET trays.
In the last few years there has been a significant increase in the use of PET trays by the packaging industry. Unfortunately, this increase has not been adequately addressed in the end-of-life solutions for these trays. As a result of poor end-of-life thinking, most of these trays cannot be easily recycled. None of the current recycling streams want to have PET trays in their incoming waste. PET recyclers cannot handle them because of their different composition (multi-layers, multi-material combinations etc.) when compared to beverage bottles. Mixed plastics recyclers do not want them because of their incompatibility with polyolefins. This is a painful situation as the 700,000 tonnes of PET trays yearly put on the market should be a valuable resource for the EU. Today, these trays are not sorted out separately and are not recycled. Nonetheless, some collection schemes and sorters are trying to push trays into the PET bottles or Mixed Plastics streams in order to achieve higher recycling targets. The key factor to change this market reality is to act at the design stage of this product. Industry must evolve in order to maintain and grow the market for this packaging product. Without such a change this PET market could be replaced by more resource efficient solutions.Thus, to overcome this situation PRE will take responsibility and start developing recycling guidelines for PET trays. These first guidelines will enable the value chain to assess the recyclability of the products which are put on the market and move towards recyclable PET trays. In a second step separate sorting streams will have to be created to enable PET tray recycling. As some non-PET trays have similar issues PRE will also develop guidelines for trays made of other plastics.