Back to black with recyclable plastics

Black is no longer the Cinderella of the industry. Thanks to new technological advances Detecta by Quinn is about to become the new black in food packaging enabling the environmental benefits of recycling black plastics to be fully realised. Quinn Packaging, a plastic food packaging producer based in Ireland, is making black plastic food trays fully identifiable in sorting systems reducing black plastic waste going to landfill.

In short, the manufacturer has addressed long standing recyclability concerns around black PET food trays with a new range of patent-pending black plastic trays.

The result will be to divert thousands of tonnes of black plastic from ending up in landfill each year providing the first real possibility of a circular economy for black plastic packaging.

Currently standard black PET trays are manufactured using a carbon black colour additive. Material Recovery Facilities (MRF’s) use Near-Infra-Red (NIR) Optical Sorting Equipment to identify and sort various plastic waste streams including PET plastic. The standard black PET trays absorb the infra-red beams making them invisible to the sorting system with the result they cannot be identified and removed for recycling.

The new Detecta by Quinn range of black PET trays have a unique black colour additive, making the trays easily identifiable allowing for removal in sorting using existing NIR equipment meaning black trays can now be recycled.

Quinn Packaging partnered with Tomra, global provider of sensor-based sorting systems, to undertake extensive trials to prove the performance in challenging sorting environments. Steve Walsh, UK Sales Manager at TOMRA, facilitated this testing and was impressed with the new tray product, he commented:

‘We are delighted to have recently hosted Quinn Packaging at our Test Centre in Germany where we conducted extensive trials using the TOMRA Auto-Sort across all sorting situations. The results speak for themselves, the Detecta by Quinn trays proved to be fully identifiable in all respects’.

During the development process Quinn Packaging was focused not only on providing the market with a detectable black PET tray that could be easily recycled, but also on producing a PET tray that was competitively priced yet still blended with over 90% recycled material. ­

Thomas McCaffrey, New Product Development Manager at Quinn Packaging, explains the importance of this product development in the context of the wider discussion on the recycling of plastic packaging:

‘In the last 12 months we have seen a growing desire within the food sector to move away from black coloured packaging. For Quinn Packaging this was short-sighted. If we are serious about moving towards a true circular economy, where food trays are recycled back into food trays, then the ultimate packaging colour to achieve this is black. The new Detecta by Quinn range overcomes the issue of identifying and sorting black PET trays for recycling and will hopefully help the industry to move towards a true circular economy.’

Repak who operate the packaging recovery compliance scheme for Ireland under licence from the Irish Government have endorsed the Detecta by Quinn product declaring it an important breakthrough in helping meet new EU targets on plastic waste.

Brian Walsh, Packaging Technology Executive at Repak, commented: ‘The EU Action Plan for a Circular Economy has a recycling target of 75% for packaging waste by 2030. To allow us to achieve this we need a collaborative effort from all stakeholders, identify where problems exist and then work together to bring forward solutions. The new Detecta by Quinn product is a perfect example of this. Quinn Packaging have worked closely with both the retail and the waste recycling sector to develop a new black PET tray that can be recycled. A great illustration of packaging design for recycling’.

For more information:
Quinn Packaging

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