Study on innovative identification methods in sorting

Study on innovative identification methods in sorting


A study commissioned by the Forum Rezyklat is to provide information on the retrofit potential of sorting plants and compare identification processes.


The "Technology and Recyclability" technical package of the Forum Rezyklat, headed by BellandVision managing director Diana Uschkoreit, says it has commissioned the comparative study of identification technologies for lightweight packaging (LVP) with the aim of creating comparability through a neutral comparison. This should make it easier for manufacturers and sorting plant operators to make investment decisions, as well as provide political decision-makers with important information for upcoming legislative processes. "Innovative sorting technologies play a central role in the reuse of used plastic packaging. Their increased use could lead to higher recycling quality as well as quantity of recyclates and thus reduce negative environmental impacts," explains Uschkoreit on the background of the study. Innovative processes such as digital watermarks, fluorescent markers or image recognition in combination with artificial intelligence could create a fundamental prerequisite for high-quality recycled material.
A research consortium consisting of scientists from the Technical University of Hamburg, Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences and the University of Leoben has now conducted a preliminary study in which relevant technology providers were identified and their processes neutrally evaluated. Identification technologies that are used to supplement the near-infrared (NIR) technology currently installed in German LVP sorting plants were compared. The study was based on a literature review and on practical experience in Germany. The results are also based on a survey of experts from the recycling industry and technology providers, as well as findings from previous research projects conducted by project participants. "The results of the study show that there is considerable interest in further developing and improving the technology in sorting plants," says Uschkoreit. Nearly one-third of the sorting facilities surveyed, representing 39 percent of total capacity in Germany, closely followed new technological developments and expressed interest in retrofitting their own facilities, is said. The study examined three basic technical approaches to sorting post-consumer lightweight packaging: digital watermarks, fluorescent markers and object recognition. Criteria such as technical maturity, number of possible separation features and likely costs were used and evaluated to create a strengths/weaknesses profile. The study concludes that all the technologies considered are suitable for further sorting LVP and for improving the quality of the recyclates.
The authors of the study recommend that a follow-up study be carried out with large-scale tests under real conditions in order to compare the different innovative sorting technologies under identical test conditions. This was not done within the framework of the theoretical preliminary study, for example, due to the different degrees of maturity or data basis. In addition, evaluations of the new processes should be carried out with regard to recyclate quality, the study report concludes.
Further information: to download the study „Vergleich innovativer Identifikationsverfahren für Post-Consumer Leichtverpackungen“

  • (Sept. 7, 2023)
  • (Sept. 8, 2023)
  • Photo: Fotolia

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