Fluorescence Coding of Plastics for Enhanced Identification and Sorting

EPA Contract Number: 68D99062
Title: Fluorescence Coding of Plastics for Enhanced Identification and Sorting
Investigators: Mazel, Charles H.
Small Business: Physical Sciences Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 1999 through March 1, 2000
Project Amount: $69,893
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Hazardous Waste/Remediation , SBIR - Waste , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


The objective of this project is to develop a fast and accurate two-step identification method for 10 types of plastic waste. Trace amounts of commercially available materials (markers) will be incorporated in the plastic components during manufacturing. After the components are discarded, the plastic types will be identified using the optical sensor that Physical Sciences proposes to develop. The identification will be based on the characteristic signatures from such markers or combinations of markers. The proposed markers are being used extensively as additives in plastics and have been proven to be nontoxic. The proposed method will eliminate shortcomings of existing identification methods by being fast (in the order of milli-seconds), noncontact, resistant to surface contamination, able to identify twice as many types of plastic than the conventional methods, independent of plastic color, and independent of part orientation. Furthermore, it will eliminate the need for complex identification algorithms required by other methods such as infrared emissions.

The overall goal of this effort is to develop a fast, accurate, and inexpensive method to identify types of waste plastic for recycling. Phase I will lead to the following results: (1) identification of proper markers and the minimum concentrations that ensure identification of 10 types of plastics, and (2) identification of the sensor requirements. In Phase II, the sensor will be developed. Although this technique can be used with all types of plastics from both industrial and municipal waste, initial efforts will focus on a specific industry such as automotive. In Phase II, Physical Sciences will team up with Chrysler, who has shown substantial interest and has provided a letter of support. The technology could be expanded later to other industries such as electronics, construction, and packaging.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, recycling, hazardous waste, engineering, EPA., Scientific Discipline, Waste, Sustainable Industry/Business, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Municipal, Chemistry, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Engineering, Hazardous, recyclable design, plastics sorting, hazardous waste, recycling, solid waste, industrial separators, separation selectivities

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report