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Black plastics no longer ‘invisible’ when sorted

UK recycling leader Viridor has joined forces with packaging specialist Nextek to find a way to sort the ‘unsortable’ black food trays sold at more and more supermarkets.

An estimated 1.3 billion black plastic food trays are purchased by UK consumers every year, resulting in what Viridor describes as a ‘waste mountain’. They mostly end up in landfill, mostly because the sorting of these plastics is ‘really, really difficult’ due to carbon black used being practically ‘invisible’ to existing sorting solutions.

But a game-changer is that Nextek has created a new black pigment system, which makes use of black materials without using carbon black. This innovation would allow the material to be sorted at source by near-infrared technology already widely used in the sector. Viridor ran a successful pilot project at its £15 million plastics facility in Medway, where trays were produced according to this new system.

Viridor is calling for major retailers such as Co-Op to join the discussion together with packaging manufacturers so only recycling-friendly products end up on the shelf.

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

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