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Carbon-Black Alternative Improves Recyclability of Plastic Packaging

Sicopal black plastic used in sushi trays
The material developed by BASF’s Colors & Effects is compatible with near-infrared sorting technology used at materials recycling facilities.

With recyclability of plastic products being a key consideration for brand owners, plastics colored with carbon black can make recycling difficult. Black plastics can go undetected by automated waste-sorting machines, and even traces of carbon black can hinder the near infrared (NIR) sorting of polymer scrap because of the pigment’s absorbing properties. Consequently, the plastic cannot be detected for further recycling and the waste will be incinerated or land-filled, explained Colors & Effects, based in Ludwigshafen, Germany. Replacing carbon black with the newly developed NIR-reflective Sicopal Black K 0098 FK contributes to smart recycling of plastics, said the company.

Sicopal Black K 0098 FK is suited for food-contact applications. Image courtesy Colors & Effects/BASF.

“The Colors & Effects research and development team has proactively taken on the industry need for recyclable black plastics that can pass through infrared sorting at materials recycling facilities,” said Dr. Christof Kujat, Head of Global Technical Industry Management for Plastics. “Building on our established Sicopal Black technology, we have developed a new member of the pigment family with the goal of optimizing it for use in packaging. In the end, our team has succeeded in creating a new pigment for recycling of black plastics with improved value in use.”

Sicopal Black K 0098 FK offers high color strength, opacity, and food-contact compliance, allowing its use in sensitive applications such as the coloration of food packaging. It is suitable for all commonly used plastic materials, including high-heat polymers, said the company.

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