For near infrared sorters, black as a color may not be the problem so much as the type of black pigment used.

Two recycling industry stakeholders in the United Kingdom have teamed up to develop and test a black pigment that won’t inhibit recognition from NIR sorters. The immediate aim is to persuade makers of black plastic trays used in ready-to-eat meals to incorporate the pigment.

For the project, Viridor, a company that collects and sorts residential recyclables across the U.K., teamed up with Nextek, a plastics consulting and R&D organization. Nextek developed a replacement to the carbon black pigment often used in black food trays and other items. The trays containing an alternative black pigment were trialed at Viridor’s plastics recycling facility (PRF) in Kent County, England.

“I’m confident that together we have found a technology solution to end these trays filling up landfills,” Edward Kosior of Nextek stated in a press release. “This is a technology that can work immediately in virtually all recycling facilities across UK, Europe and USA.”

Nextek was commissioned to produce the pigment and sortable black trays by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a nonprofit group.

Nextek said a range of black colorants have been produced that can be used in a variety of plastic products, including those in electronics and appliances, automobiles and building and construction materials.

The project was even featured on a BBC show. Resource Media reported on the project and the BBC’s coverage of it, noting that impediments to adoption of the new packaging remain. While the additional per-unit cost of the new trays is estimated at less than a tenth of a penny, that could keep it from being picked up by retailers.

Resource Media also pointed out that diverting the black PET trays into the mixed-color PET stream could damage end-markets for the stream.


Plastics Recycling 2018