TOMRA applies new sharp eye techology to single-layer pet tray and bottle separation

New brand application, made possible by higher light intensity is a technological breakthrough at a time when demand for plastic bottles and trays is growing internationally.

More than a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and within the next five years this number is expected to increase by a further 20%. In response, EU regulations are tightening and organisations such as Plastics Recyclers Europe are instigating recycling guidelines for PET trays. This will encourage separate sorting streams for PET tray recycling and develop markets for this packaging product.

TOMRA Sorting Recycling has introduced a new technology called TOMRA SHARP EYE, which makes it possible to separate single-layer PET trays from PET bottles. This enhances the previous capability of TOMRA’s AUTOSORT machine to separate multi-layer trays. This breakthrough is commercially significant because small but critical differences in the chemical properties of PET food trays and PET bottles mean that they have to be separated for equivalent-product recycling. In addition, intelligent computing technology embedded in TOMRA systems enables seamless analysis of sorted products, making future plants even smarter.

The key to this breakthrough is an enhancement of TOMRA’s market-leading FLYING BEAM® technology. As the first near-infrared (NIR) scan system using point-scanning without external lamps, FLYING BEAM® technology focuses solely on the area of the conveyor belt being scanned. Allowing a wide range of calibration options, this identifies the finest molecular differences in materials flowing along the recycling line. The TOMRA SHARP EYE technology introduces a bigger lens for higher light intensity, so it is possible to detect even the most indistinguishable properties. 

The seamless, flexible process to separate single-layer PET trays and PET bottles begins with the sorting of mixed plastics into different polymers and packaging material collected or pre-sorted from municipal solid waste (MSW). TOMRA’s AUTOSORT equipment then separates the mixed PET into different polymers, detecting material and colour in combination with grain size. This process achieves an impressive sorting efficiency of 95% or greater, even with a very mixed material input.

Valerio Sama, TOMRA Sorting Recycling Product Manager, commented: “We expect our new TOMRA SHARP EYE technology to be welcomed by collection-and-sorting plants and by PET regeneration centres. Demand for this new technology is likely to grow, as the adoption of on-the-go lifestyles worldwide is pushing-up the use of plastic drink bottles and plastic trays used for fruit, vegetables
and other foodstuffs.”

A TOMRA AUTOSORT machine with the new TOMRA SHARP EYE technology is available for
demonstration by appointment at the company’s Test Center near Koblenz, Germany.

Associated Businesses

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