Technology to distinguish between food-contact plastics and non-food contact plastics during recycling has been successfully developed, according to researchers.
The Polymark Consortium, which has spent three years working on the technology, has published preliminary results of using a marking technique to differentiate post-consumer PET streams for high-speed sorting.
Its report outlines a prototype, flexible, coating-based approach for marking PET bottles, and details the combination of suitable food contact-approved chemical markers and polymeric matrices used.
The marker is removed after sorting so that marker accumulation and the potential for false detection thereafter is minimised.
The research project, funded by the European Commission, brings together stakeholders from the entire PET value chain.
Polymark said the technology would help the recycling industry to better distinguish between food-contact and non-food contact PET while meeting EU regulation on the use of recycled PET for food-contact applications. The technology can also be used for other purposes, it said.
Patrick Peuch from Petcore Europe, part of the consortium, said: “Our research partners have successfully developed a complete technology package. By publicly releasing these results, we aim to raise early awareness and to give unconstrained access to the widest number of interested parties for their faster consideration and longer-term planning.”
During the next 18 months, Polymark will focus on scaling up the technology to industrial conditions, and holding workshops and other training to communicate the findings and to promote its benefits.
Polymark partners include: Petcore Europe, European Federation of Bottled Waters, European Association of Plastics Recycling and Recovery Organisations, Plastics Recyclers Europe, UK Health and Environmental Research Institute, Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems, Sesotec, ColorMatrix Europe and 4PET Recycling.