In August 2022, TotalEnergies Corbion and Tomra Recycling embarked on a realistic, industrial sorting test with the goal of determining the sortability of PLA from municipal mixed plastic waste.
The companies used a Near Infra-Red (NIR) sorting machine, for the test. The outcome was clear: once again, sorting PLA from other plastics waste proved to be both easy and straightforward.
PLA trays mixed with other post-consumer plastic items were able to be recovered in full, with very high purity at the Tomra centre in Mülheim-Kärlich, Germany.
It was also tested what happened when sorting out just the PET bottle fraction from the mixed plastics waste stream. Again, no PLA trays ended up in the PET stream.
“Plastic waste collectors and sorters know that using the infrared technology, PLA plastic products can easily be sorted from other municipal waste,” said Jürgen Priesters, SVP TOMRA Feedstock. “In closed loop environments, where PLA bottles and PLA cups are exclusively used, the amount of PLA is sufficiently high to also make it economically feasible to collect, sort and clean the PLA.”
TotalEnergies Corbion is already actively collecting used PLA products from closed loop systems and pre-consumer waste, which serves as feedstock from which rPLA is made, preventing the material from ending up in landfill or being incinerated and reducing land use and the need for biomass for the production of virgin PLA. Today, Luminy rPLA, containing 20% post-industrial and post-consumer PLA waste is already commercially available.
Having once again confirmed, in collaboration with Tomra, that PLA can be effectively sorted from other municipal plastic waste using existing separation equipment, it has once again been shown that claims that PLA contaminates PET recycling streams are sheer nonsense, François de Bie, Senior Marketing and Supply Chain Director at TotalEnergies Corbion.
“Many other studies, as cited in our white paper about end-of-life options for PLA, have confirmed exactly the same. In short, no technical barrier exists that prevents an effective separation of PLA from other plastic waste."
Both companies are at K 2022 in Düsseldorf and are available for more information. More detailed results of the sorting trials will be presented at the Tomra booth (hall 9, D 47) during the Tomra Talks, on Monday 25 Oct at 14:30. TotalEnergies Corbion can be found at hall 6, E 20. K 2022 opens 19 Oct.