With the production of recycled plastic content far from meeting demand, Alberto Piovesan, Global Segment Manager Plastics at TOMRA Recycling Sorting, explains why embracing the latest technological advances in flake sorting can help to bridge the gap between supply and demand and give recyclers a competitive edge in efficiency and profitability.
The plastic industry is in transition and facing a set of challenges, the most prominent of which is delivering high-quality secondary feedstock in large enough volumes to meet the ever-rising demand.
Plastic production rates have shot up exponentially over the past few decades. According to Plastics Europe, global plastic production reached 390.7*million metric tonnes (MT) in 2021, of which 352.3 million MT is virgin-based (90.2%) and only 32.5 million MT (8.3%) from post-consumer recycled plastics.
A closer look at the distribution of the total plastic production by type reveals that polyolefins (PO) make up the majority, with manufacturing rates amounting to approximately 180.5 million MT.
Although there is a vast amount of plastic on the market and further increases are expected, recycling rates remain low and access to high-quality recyclates is limited. In times when legislation and recycled content targets are becoming increasingly stringent and time-sensitive, it is crucial to unlock the potential of existing solutions.
Plastic production rates have shot up exponentially over the past few decades.
A glance at the current state of recycling shows that waste management infrastructures – from collection to sorting and recycling – have become more mature in numerous countries around the world, but the level of available capacity is still not keeping pace with the ever-increasing demand for recycled resin.
More investment is needed to establish solutions at scale to be able to produce the volumes and qualities required. Fortunately, some bottlenecks can be overcome with sensor-based flake sorting solutions. When used as part of the recycling process, flake sorting narrows both the quality and quantity gap for polyolefins (PO), polyethene terephthalate (PET) and a growing number of other applications. Recyclers using the latest flake sorting technology can capture more types of material, maximise yield and maintain profitable operations.
Flake sorting allows for the creation of high-purity mono fractions of one material type and/or colour and is the last purification step before the target fractions go into extrusion. It is an indispensable component of the recycling process and directly impacts the final quality and yield of the recyclates.
Click here to read the full article and learn about the potential that flake sorters hold for treating mixed plastic waste, unleashing new streams of available feedstock, improving the quality of recyclates and creating new revenue streams.
TOMRA Recycling Sorting
TOMRA Recycling Sorting designs and manufactures sensor-based sorting technologies for the recycling and waste management industry. More than 8,000 systems are installed in 100 countries around the world.
Responsible for the development of the world’s first infrared sensor for waste recycling applications, TOMRA Recycling Sorting is a pioneer in the field and through its sensors recovers high-purity fractions from the waste stream that maximise yield and customer benefits.
TOMRA Recycling Sorting is part of TOMRA Recycling, which develops sensor-based sorting and process control systems for food, mining and other industries. TOMRA Recycling is owned by Norway’s TOMRA Systems ASA, which was founded in 1972 and is publicly listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. The Group employs ~4,600 people globally and had total revenues of ~1.1B Euro in 2021.