In response to the continuous increase of the amount of improper polymers and degradable plastics that remain mixed with the PE (polyethylene) films, that arrive to recycling sites and give lower quality to the recycled plastics, a special Film Sorting Machine (FSM) for the recycling of these post-consumer wastes has been developed and built at the FILMSORT Project.

The involved participants have merged their knowledge on applied research related to plastic wastes recycling and environmental evaluation (GAIKER), ability for the manufacture of automatic identification and sorting equipment (RTT) and experience on polyolefin recycling industry and markets (CORDOPLAS). As result of this cooperation the following physical outputs have been achieved at the FILMSORT Project:

•    A new identification and sorting equipment for waste plastic films: the Film-Sorting Machine (FSM) that is commercially available
•    A study of the potential improvement in the grade of the recycled PE pellets from post-consumer waste films based on the expected introduction of the Film-Sorting Machine (FSM) in the current recycling scheme for these materials
•    An environmental assessment of the innovative solution for waste plastic films recycling including sensor based identification and sorting operations, considering both the achievable results when implementing the developed Film-Sorting Machine (FSM) and the potential to manufacture final plastic products which include high grade recycled plastic films, by means of a LCA study


The results of FILMSORT Project are:

•    The main outcome is a new developed equipment for plastic recyclers, the Film Sorting Machine (FSM) to be commercialised as “UniSort Film”, including an identification system based on near infrared hyperspectral imaging (NIR-HSI) for the recognition and classification of different film types and the suitable devices for sorting them suppressing turbulent air eddies in order to enrich the PE film fraction and separate the other materials
•    Upstream, the main outcomes are the new designed, developed and tested specific parts, the sensors and actuators which mounted as modules on the Film Sorting Machine (FSM), for dealing with the specific features of the waste plastic films
•    Downstream, the main outcomes is the description of the procedure to manufacture improved grade recycled PE pellets from post-consumer waste films based on the introduction of the Film-Sorting Machine (FSM) in the current recycling scheme for plastic waste films
•    Assessment, using LCA methodology, of the environmental profile after including the FILMSORT innovation in the current recycling scheme for the post-consumer plastic and PE films waste and the manufacture of plastics products using recycled PE films. The results showed that after its successful implementation it could lead to environmental benefits such as cutting the CO2 emissions by 10% and lowering energy consumption by 8%. Additional savings were estimated in 10% for washing and rinsing water and in 40% for the non renewable resources used in the manufacture of virgin PE that could be replaced in the final applications by recycled PE from plastic film waste.

The direct market for the FILMSORT technology are the over 200-250 plants, mainly SME, that are estimated to be behind the treatment and recycling of 1,600,000-2,000,000 tonne (according to plastics facts in Europe in year 2011) of post-consumer LDPE and LLDPE waste films. Waste sorting plants and industrial installation dealing with film like materials to separate are another niche markets.

The environmental benefits identified, by improving the recycling scheme for the post-consumer waste PE films after the successful implementation of the FILMSORT technology, are the reduction on CO2 emissions and energy consumption (primary indicators) together with the savings of water for washing and rinse operation and non renewable resources for the manufacture of virgin PE (secondary indicators).

The FILMSORT technology is a tool supporting the achievement of recycling targets at Directive 2004/12/EC on packaging and packaging waste and/or the proper management of waste and the optimum usage of resources at Directive 2008/98/EC on waste.

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