Bühler UK Ltd has won this year's Queen's Award for Enterprise: Innovation in recognition of its pioneering research into camera technology used in sorting machines. The technological breakthrough is being used to drive up food safety controls in the nut and frozen vegetable sectors while also helping to increase plastic recycling rates.
Waste plastic is an enormous challenge worldwide. Yet, as production continues to increase, just 5% of waste plastic is recycled effectively. Bühler is addressing this global challenge with a tailored PET recycling solution, capable of improving yields by more than 30%. A strategic partnership with US-based National Recovery Technologies (NRT) allows the company to offer plastics recyclers a complete solution for plastic bottle and flake sorting.
Bühler solution helps PET recycler improve yield of bottle-to-bottle grade rPET flakes by more than 30 percent
At K 2016 (the world's largest trade show focused on plastics and rubber, held October 19-26 in Germany) the Bühler Group revealed how its two-machine solution – the SORTEX E PolyVision and SORTEX A ColorVision – can deliver bottle-to-bottle grade rPET flakes at the highest yield, currently possible in the market. According to Bühler, STF Recycling GmbH, one of the largest recyclers in Europe, has very positive things to say about the company's flexible SORTEX system. STF says SORTEX enables them to achieve higher value recyclate and profit margins, by accurately separating valuable rPET from baled material. It can do this regardless of its composition and contamination level, which can vary from as little as 5 percent to as much as 30 percent, from bale to bale, depending on the recycling practises of different countries.
The Bühler Group has announced a breakthrough in polymer sorting, with the launch of its new SORTEX E PolyVision. This ground-breaking technology is able to identify same-colour polymer contaminants, by analyzing their chemical signatures, to deliver higher grade rPET flakes that exceed industry standards for minimum contamination levels. According to Bühler, this new machine completes a sophisticated portfolio of optical sorting solutions, which tackle all of the industry’s concerns, such as unwanted colours, metals and now polymers – a solution that has previously been compromised. Historically, removing same-colour polymer material from rPET flakes, such as clear PVC from clear PET, has been challenging for recyclers, as they cannot be visibly distinguished at such high processing speeds, without losing a lot of valuable flakes. Adding to this complexity, rPET flakes can be minute, so you need a sophisticated technology that not only detects 'invisible' polymers at high processing capacities, but also very small flakes.
As the demand for plastic sorting solutions continues to soar, Buhler Sortex, a member of The Bühler Group, and US-based National Recovery Technologies (NRT) are entering a strategic commercial agreement to offer plastics recyclers a complete solution for plastic bottle and flake sorting. The companies are bringing together more than 100 years of combined expertise in optical sorting giving recyclers access to their proven technologies, engineering expertise and their extensive customer service and support networks.
Plant and equipment technology specialist Bühler recently co-ordinated and installed a turnkey optical sorting system for Deceuninck, a Belgian sustainable building products manufacturer who says they view recycling as simply another source of raw materials.
Bühler, a global leader in optical sorting, continues to strengthen its prominent position as a technology partner in plastics recycling, with the announcement that US-based CarbonLite, one of the world’s largest producers of food-grade recycled PET (rPET), has raised their output quality to near-perfect purity, following their installation of Bühler’s state-of-the-art SORTEX sorting technology.
Demand for rPET is outstripping supply, as consumers and brand owners alike continue to pursue ever more sustainable packaging options. To help meet this demand, Bühler has drawn on its many years of experience, to provide a solution that can sort colour and foreign material contaminants from post-consumer PET packaging, to help create a top quality end product.
With the advent of viable rPET for food grade packaging, Bühler has drawn on more than sixty years of successful optical sorting experience in the food industry to combine its sophisticated double-sided viewing capability, precise ejectors and Enhanced InGaAs technology, in a high capacity rPET solution. This, the company says, delivers consistency, balance and performance, while maximizing yield.
Luis Fernandez, Plastics Applications Specialist explained, “It is far more important to deliver a solution which meets requirements consistently, rather than exceed requirements inconsistently. Our experience prompts us to listen to the needs of individual plastics recyclers and produce a solution giving them the highest yield, compatible with consistent, balanced performance.”
CarbonLite says they selected Bühler technology for its ability to carry out simultaneous, multi-characteristic sorting of rPET flakes, including the removal of a wide range of foreign materials. Now, the company reports having the ability to sort incoming rPET flakes for colour, while simultaneously removing unwanted polymers such as PVC (polyvinyl Chloride), PE (polyethylene), PP (polypropylene), PA (polyamide) and PS (polystyrene), as well as aluminium and paper from the clear rPET.
The choice of sorting technology formed a vital part in CarbonLite’s investment in 2012, in a new 220,000 square feet bottle-to-bottle plastic recycling plant in Riverside, California, which now allows the company to recover over two billion used plastic PET bottles annually. The incoming post-consumer PET is processed into rPET pellets that can be manufactured into new plastic beverage bottles, to the exacting standards of food industry customers such as Pepsico and Nestlé.
“CarbonLite is delighted with the Bühler SORTEX installation, especially the technical and service support we received during the installation phase,” said Chairman Leon Farahnick. Thanks to the dedicated SORTEX sorting technology, his company has been able to simplify the stringent recycling process required to produce food grade rPET. In turn, this has reduced the CarbonLite plant’s energy consumption and carbon footprint.
“We’re committed to being the leading bottle-to-bottle recycler, while we preserve resources and reduce the carbon footprint from PET bottle production.” concluded Farahnick.
Bühler’s partnership with CarbonLite, turning post-consumer PET bottles into new PET bottles, supports the plastic packaging industry’s commitment to preserving virgin resources, reduce the number of PET bottles destined for landfill and harness the energy already expended in making the original PET bottles.
According to Bühler, the introduction of SORTEX technology for sorting plastics brings a long awaited solution that helps companies such as CarbonLite meet the demands of the food industry for high quality rPET. Nestlé has recently relaunched several of its water brands in new ReBorn bottles, made with fifty percent rPET and continues to support PET recycling initiatives. Yet more rPET is still needed, and Bühler’s solution for sorting plastics will go a long way to meeting this growing need.
Bühler says they are committed to further innovation to help extend the range of optical sorting application for plastics processing and to help recyclers achieve their goals. As plastic recyclers look to adopt more advanced, cost-effective and energy efficient processes, the demand for advanced optical sorting solutions will continue to grow.
The Bühler Group is a global leader in process engineering and is particularly active in production technologies for food manufacture and engineering materials. It operates in more than 140 countries, has 10,300 employees and generated sales revenues of CHF 2,409 million in fiscal 2012.