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A bar code made of metal oxides will allow recycling facilities to automatically select plastic types.
An invisible bar code made of metal oxides could ease the separation of plastic packaging sent for disposal. The idea comes from a British project that was just funded for over a million dollars and is about to become reality.
PRISM (Plastic Packaging Recycling using Intelligent Separation technologies for Materials) just got an important grant from the innovation agency of the British government, with the contribution of other financial partners. The PRISM project will develop new fluorescent materials obtained from metal oxides and convert powders obtained from recycled fluorescent lamps into suitable fluorescent materials.
“This could be the equivalent of an invisible barcode for plastics recycling – said Edward Kosior, managing director of Nextek, a partner of the initiative – It is a significant step forward in the sub-categorisation of plastics which are sorted automatically at high speed.” The initiative has the potential to provide “a massive impetus for new businesses in the recycling sector”, he added.
The fluorescent label sorting system is designed to be integrated with the current near infra-red-based sorting systems used in treatment facilities. The system would be triggered by an ultraviolet (UV) light source that is detected in the visible spectrum: this is within the capacity of many modern automatic sorting units.
The project partners also claim that if the project proves successful, it would allow to distinguish food-grade polymers from non-food-grade, to identify black plastics and to tag full-length shrink-sleeves according to the underlying plastic.