NatureWorks claims equipment is available to sort bio-plastics for recycling

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Polylactic acid Recycling

NatureWorks has insisted that there are no technical barriers to the sorting and separating of polylactic acid (PLA) bottles for recycling.

Bio-plastics have come into criticism because the resources are not always available to bring their green credentials to life.

However, NatureWorks said equipment is on the market capable of accurately sorting natural plastic bottles from other bottles.

Identification of capable equipment suppliers

The bio-plastics manufacturer said it had identified a dozen companies offering systems that can sort bio-resins and has tested the accuracies of three.

For example, using its near-infrared sorting system Titech was able to eject concentrated amounts of NatureWorks Ingeo PLA in a PET sorting operation with an accuracy of 97.5 percent in a single pass.

NatureWorks said its conclusions were supported by WRAP, the not-for-profit waste management body. In a report published in June last year called ‘Domestic Mixed Plastics Packaging Waste Options, WRAP said: “NIR (near-infrared) systems can effectively remove PLA bio-plastic and carton board from a mixed packaging stream.”

While the equipment needed to separate bio-plastics may be commercially available, it is not always in place.

Concerns about bio-plastics in recycling schemes

Jane Bickerstaffe, director for the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) recently said retailers and manufacturers were concerned about allowing bio-plastics into some recycling schemes fearing that certain materials could cause disruption because they have to be recycled separately.

She also said certain bio-plastics can be too labor intensive for recycling.

RPC Beauté general manager Gerald Martines also expressed similar reservations about certain ‘green materials’ at the recent PCD Congress in Paris.

Martines told “Using packaging from a biodegradable resource doesn’t make a difference if the resources are not available to process the waste at the end of the product life cycle.”

Nobody from NatureWorks was available to respond to these criticisms before publication.

Related topics Packaging & Design Sustainability

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