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PLA bottles pose no recycling problems

According to a June 2008 report, "Domestic Mixed Plastics Packaging Waste Options," prepared by the WRAP environmental organization and now being circulated by bioplastics supplier Natureworks, WRAP concluded that NIR (near-infrared) sorting systems can effectively remove polylactic acid (PLA) and carton board from a mixed packaging stream. A NatureWorks survey of automated sorting equipment performance with its Ingeo-brand PLA came to similar conclusions.

environmental organization and now being circulated by bioplastics supplier Natureworks, WRAP concluded that NIR (near-infrared) sorting systems can effectively remove polylactic acid (PLA) and carton board from a mixed packaging stream. A NatureWorks survey of automated sorting equipment performance with its Ingeo-brand PLA came to similar conclusions. The company says it surveyed equipment manufacturers that have systems with the potential to sort biopolymers from such other plastics as PET, HDPE, PVC, and PS, and identified a dozen companies offering systems than can potentially sort bioresins.

Concerns about the affects of PLA packaging on recycling streams have hindered the material’s acceptance, as have the material’s availability and pricing, as well as performance concerns for certain types of packaging.

Dell, Coca-Cola, Dow, DuPont, NatureWorks and many other companies are working together on the Future 500 pilot project, a broad-reaching focus on sustainability that includes, among other projects, work to evaluate mechanical processing in the separation of bioresin and other plastics from both PET and high density polyethylene (HDPE). The bioresin separation pilot study is being funded in part by the California Department of Conservation, which in November 2008 awarded $1,047,000 toward the 18-month project. Businesses are contributing an additional $800,000.

The project will compare the effectiveness of automated sorting technologies with the goal of showing where and how bioresin can most efficiently and economically be sorted prior to being reformulated and reused. [email protected]

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