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Markers as ways to design plastic packaging for better recovery during sorting

Fluorescent markers used in bottles or other packaging help optical sorting in Material recovery facilities

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Plastic Packaging Recycling using Intelligent Separation technologies for Materials (PRISM) has developed fluorescent markers which enables sub-categorization of plastics which are sorted in Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) automatically at high speed. The fluorescent label sorting  system is designed to be integrated with the current near infra-red (NIR)-based sorting systems used in materials recovery facilities (MRFs). This will allow, for instance, food-grade polymers to be distinguished from non-food-grade, black plastics to be identified and full-length shrink-sleeves to be tagged according to the underlying plastic. This effort enables new initiatives from brand-owners eager to recover their packaging as part of the circular economy. 

Technology partners associated with the project are claiming  to achieving 98 percent yield in identification and separation trials. It is said that with the PRISM technology, different combinations of a limited number of fluorescent pigments used on labels, open up cost-effective routes to high-grade sorting. PRISM partners estimate that fluorescent inks would only add a minimal cost to the labels. 

How does this research relate to our Use Cases?

While PRISM's work doesn't directly address small format packaging, it can be applied to a wide variety of form factors.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Small format packaging can use similar markers or labels (fluorescent or otherwise) to enable better sorting at MRF. One of the biggest reasons small format items are not recycled is that they cant be effectively sorted at MRFs. Designing packaging around solving this issue might go a long way in solving problems around recycling small-format packaging.

Tell us about yourself

I, Ravish Majithia, am a materials scientist by training. I have worked extensively with fluorescent markers for design of sensors. The use of labels or markers to track and sort our waste streams seems like a powerful opportunity.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ravish Majithia

Kate Rushton Would be intrested in your feedback on our submission Smart labels for plastic packaging 

Photo of Kate Rushton

Thank you, Ravish. I just need to speak to a colleague first. They know more about this area than I do.

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