Recycling of precious plastics

New NanoTrust dossier examining marker materials and spectroscopic methods for sorting plastic waste.

Spectroscopes make markers visible in valuable plastics.

Modern waste sorting systems are automated, sensor-based sorting systems and capable of separating some commercially available plastics. However, many technical plastics, including highly valuable ones such as polyoxymethylene used in the production of molded parts by injection molding, are not detected and recognized in this process and thus are not sent to a recycling process.

Special marker materials can be incorporated into plastics in such a way that they could be detected by spectroscopic methods and thus sorted. As recycling rates are still too low in many EU countries, this method is intended to help meet the recycling targets of the EU's Circular Economy Action Plan.

However, the large-scale use of marker materials, for example for inexpensive bulk plastics in the packaging industry, still has a catch: the high price! Therefore, the greatest potential for marker-based sorting lies in the area of expensive, technical plastics, such as those in waste electrical equipment.

More on the topic in NanoTrust Dossier 60 by Christoph Olscher, Aleksander Jandric, Christian Zafiu, Anna Pavlicek and Florian Part.