A Process for Online Quality Control of Recycled Plastic Flake

EPA Contract Number: 68D01036
Title: A Process for Online Quality Control of Recycled Plastic Flake
Investigators: Sommer, Edward J.
Small Business: National Recovery Technologies Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: April 1, 2001 through September 1, 2001
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Pollution Prevention , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


Generally, it is accepted that for plastics recycling to be economically viable in the long term, recycled resins must be competitive with virgin resins. To compete with virgin material, new applications must be made available for recycled resins. Such applications will require that the recycled resin be of a high purity level. Thus, many processors are requiring ever-tightening contamination limits in their recycled resin products. With these tightening contamination limits comes the need to remove contaminants from the stream that do not come from whole bottles or that get through whole-bottle detection systems. Unfortunately, automated flake sorting for the entire stream of material is too expensive for many processors.

Current quality control methods require that small samples be taken manually from the stream after processing and manually analyzed in the laboratory. This requires several hours before the quality control results can be obtained - at this point, the material already has been placed in the storage area. Unacceptable contamination levels, therefore, will have contaminated entire gaylords or even a silo of material before the processor is aware of the problem. The processor then typically will blend the contaminated material with pure material, resulting in a lower quality product.

The Phase I objective is to determine the feasibility of developing a rugged analytical system for online quality control that would continuously monitor a sample from the recycling process material stream to determine contamination levels in real time. When the contamination level is too high, the system would activate a diverting mechanism so that contaminated material is diverted away from the main stream of material for further processing.

It is anticipated that upon successful completion of the Phase I and Phase II research that application of the technology will significantly improve the economics of plastics recycling. The proposed technology appears to have substantial application at facilities in which postconsumer plastics are sorted for recycling. Nearly every state and developed country has now passed legislation requiring specific levels of recycling to be achieved in the near future. National Recovery Technologies, Inc., markets recycling equipment worldwide and expects the proposed technology to have a strong market in the postconsumer plastics recycling industry.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, monitoring, recycling, plastic flake, engineering, chemistry, EPA, pollution prevention., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, Chemical Engineering, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Environment, Chemistry, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Chemistry and Materials Science, Engineering, Environmental Engineering, online monitoring, plastic flake, recycling, automated quality control, plastics, pollution prevention

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final
  • SBIR Phase II:

    A Process for Online Quality Control of Recycled Plastic Flake  | Final Report