Unilever is developing a new detectable black pigment for its plastic bottles so they can be recycled.
Sorting black plastic products has proved difficult for recyclers but now Unilever’s special pigment allows them to be ‘seen’ by near-infrared optical systems. The new solution means that an additional 2 500 tonnes of plastic bottles could be recycled each year in the UK alone. ‘That’s equivalent to the weight of more than 1 200 family-sized cars or 200 London buses,’ Unilever says.
‘In 2019, we will phase in the new detectable bottles in the UK,’ the company adds. The black plastic pigment will be incorporated into two new types of Unilever’s high-density polyethylene bottles. Unilever has also started adding a minimum of 30% recycled plastic into its bottles.
‘We have carried out extensive trials – in collaboration with plastics charity Recoup and waste management partners Veolia, Viridor, Suez and Tomra – which have proved that this new pigment can be technically detected within their material recycling facilities in the UK,’ says Sebastian Munden, general manager of Unilever UK & Ireland.
He adds that the knowledge and expertise from developing the solution ‘will be made accessible to others in the industry, as well as to other markets globally.’
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