A Process for Online Quality Control of Recycled Plastic Flake

EPA Contract Number: 68D02057
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: II
Project Period: June 1, 2002 through June 1, 2004
Project Amount: $225,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2002) Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Pollution Prevention , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


Current processing techniques for plastics during the recycling process first sort whole plastic containers such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) using hand sorting or automated bottle sorting. After bottle sorting, the product streams are sent to grinders that reduce the bottles in size to flakes normally about one-third to one-half inch in size. Unfortunately, the product streams often are contaminated with other polymer resins. To be competitive with virgin resins, the recycled resin must be of a high purity level. Thus, many plastics recyclers are faced with ever-tightening contamination limits from buyers for their product.

A number of National Recovery Technologies, Inc.'s (NRT) clients have indicated an interest in an online technology that would continuously sample and measure the contamination level of tramp polymers in their process stream and provide the capability to divert the stream when it exceeds a specified contamination level. The diverted contaminated material then can be sold to a lower value market or otherwise further processed. In Phase I, NRT demonstrated the technical feasibility for the development of such a technology.

The objective of the Phase II project is to complete the development of the Phase I technology and design, construct, install, and test prototype online quality control systems in PET plastic recycling facilities. To assist in funding the deployment, testing, and further development of the prototype systems, NRT has obtained commitments for Phase III funding during Phase II from recycling facilities that have agreed to cooperate with NRT in the development and testing of the technology.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, monitoring, recycling, plastics, engineering, chemistry, EPA, pollution prevention, PET, HDPE, RFA, Air

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report

  • SBIR Phase I:

    A Process for Online Quality Control of Recycled Plastic Flake