PLASTICS RECYCLING
Group of UK companies band together to tackle CPET recycling problem / In-market trial of solution to commence in July
Some 1.3 bn black recyclable CPET trays are used in ready-meal packaging in the UK annually but their black colour has made it difficult for near-infrared (NIR) optical sorting equipment at plastic sorting facilities to detect them. Thus, they are often missed and end up in landfill or processed into energy. However, a consortium of well-known organisations from the UK’s packaging, retail and recycling industries is in the process of launching an in-market trial programme aimed at significantly increasing the recycling rate of the black CPET trays.

Not-for-profit resource efficiency specialist WRAP (Banbury; www.wrap.org.uk) is joining forces with UK-based multinational retailer Marks & Spencer, supermarket giant Sainsbury’s, ready-meal packaging producer Faerch Plast (Holstebro / Denmark; www.faerchplast.com) the Kent Resource Partnership, Biffa, Recoup (Woodston; www.recoup.org), and British plastics recycling consultancy Nextek (London; www.nextek.org) to solve the issue around the tray’s colour.

Commencing mid-July, an in-market trial utilising a new type of CPET tray with an alternative black colourant will test the effectiveness of these alternatives in terms of their ability to be manufactured, distributed and recovered. WRAP has already been working with industry experts to identify the new black and reports that sorting trials have shown them to be detected and sorted for recycling.

“This represents a ‘world first’ on several levels in the recovery of black plastic CPET trays from the post-consumer stream,” notes Edward Kosior, Nextek’s managing director. “The trial represents the logical extension of over four years of technical investigations sponsored by WRAP to fine-tune the development of these special colourants so that they function without any negative impacts on the manufacturing and recovery of these widely used plastic trays. The technology has the potential to be shared with other packaging and durable applications such as appliances, office equipment and automotive components and could mark the beginning of a new capacity to capture black plastic products at high speeds in the modern MRFs (material recovery facilities) used throughout Europe."

Each entity participating in the project is bringing its expertise to the trial, ensuring a comprehensive testing phase. Faerch Plast has produced 2m of the detectable CPET trays, which will be found at M&S and Sainsbury’s for their ready-meals range during the four-week period. A focus is being placed on the country’s southeastern region, where the recovery of the trays is scheduled to happen.

National waste management and recycling specialists Biffa are to take the lead in utilising NIR detection technology, which has been re-programmed to sort the detectable black CPET trays. Nextek’s task is to assist with the automatic sorting and to supervise the recycling and decontamination of the material back to Faerch Plast.

The trays will be reprocessed using proven decontamination technologies for assessment of the ability to manufacture them back into food-grade black CPET trays, aimed at achieving a closed loop system.

The consortium plans to make a public report available after the trial phase has been completed and a full review has been carried out. It will examine sorting efficiency, carbon footprint reduction, disposal cost reduction and commercial viability.
10.07.2014 Plasteurope.com [228652-0]
Published on 10.07.2014
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