No retrofitting needed: standard NIR technology detects markers and paves the way for a circular economy
Only outstanding packaging innovations are awarded the German Packaging Award. In 2021, packaging producer Fischbach and marker manufacturer Tailorlux qualified for this recognition. Sorting specialist STEINERT UniSort developed the idea for the marking and detection – based on standard NIR (near-infrared) detection.
Representing various stages of the process up to the point of recycling: from left to right: Achim Helmenstein, Managing Director of Fischbach KG, Marco Flosbach, Sales Director of Fischbach KG, Swen Peters, Packaging Equipment, Technology & Sustainability at Henkel, Hendrik Beel, Managing Director of STEINERT UniSort, Tobias Herzog, Managing Director of Tailorlux (photo was taken in compliance with conditions put into place as a result of coronavirus)
Tobias Herzog, Managing Director of Tailorlux, Hendrik Beel, Managing Director of STEINERT UniSort and Achim Helmenstein, Managing Director of Fischbach KG, worked together to design a marker, which now finally allows a distinction to be made between food and non-food packaging, allows non-recyclable products to be found and permits the recovery of packaging containing items which prevent recycling.
Conventional technology detects markers
All that sorting system operators need to do in order to benefit from this innovation is simply request a software update from STEINERT UniSort. This means that integrating the solution into their sorting system requires very little effort and it works perfectly with conventional technology. Hendrik Beel sums up: “In order to achieve a circular economy, companies operating at the various process stages in recycling need to come together and work together. In this team, we have gone one step further by being able to detect markers with totally standard technology, i.e. without having to retrofit anything.”
Marking from Tailorlux distinguishes non-recyclable products
Non-recyclable products are one potential use case, for example because a bottle contains a harmful residue which impairs recycling. Standard NIR sorting systems in sorting plants detect the Tailorlux marker on the non-recyclable PE packaging and sort the object instantly. Therefore, the PE obtained from the sorting system remains clean and can be turned into a new PE product in line with the circular economy. What’s more, the marking is printed using UV screen printing inks. It can hardly be detected by the human eye, but its colours provide a good absorption band.
The history of STEINERT dates back 130 years: The family-owned, Cologne-based business is one of the world’s leading experts in sensor sorting and magnetic separation for waste and metal recycling as well as mining. With 340 employees, STEINERT generates an annual turnover of approximately EUR 100 million. In addition to 50 sales partnerships and joint ventures across the globe, the company has subsidiaries in Germany, Australia, Brazil and the USA.