So I had no idea this is a thing but apparently, black thermoformed trays are invisible to near-infrared sorting machines in recycling facilities and are therefore unable to be sorted for recycling. I received an email for PET Sheets & Thermoforms Summit February 19-20 in London that reads,
Over a billion black trays used for ready meals and fruits by supermarkets end up in landfills. Although recyclable, these trays are 'invisible' to near-infrared sorting machines in recycling facilities. Now a cross-industry group, including leading retailers, have committed to enable sustainable recycling of all black plastic packaging including black trays by end of 2018.
Nextek has developed a new black pigment that allows it to be spotted by infrared and it is under trial at British recycling firm Viridor’s plant. Some estimates say that its costs about 0.5p a tray to use either a different colour or a special black pigment that can be detected by recycling machines.
The summit is to have presentations on challenges and progress with recycling black thermoformed trays and what the thermoforming industry is doing about the circular economy. Click here for the summit agenda.
I thought this information was timely considering the article I just wrote for Packaging Digest on PET thermoform recycling in the EU.
Learn about Dordan's efforts to recycle thermoformed packaging here.