Copenhagen tests new sorting robot for carbon black trays


The near infrared (NIR) technology which is most prevalent in plastic sorting plants all over the world has difficulty recognizing items made of carbon black plastic.

With the help of advanced image recognition and artificial intelligence, the company IHP Systems helps the City of Copenhagen develop and test a new robot-sorter, which can recognize food trays by shape and color and sort them out of a mixed waste stream.

The software, which is developed in the partnership, can potentially be used by sorting-robots at other sorting facilities, which could boost tray-to-tray recycling of carbon black trays. It is also possible to “teach” the robot to recognize other product categories, such as food bottles and detergent bottles, and sort them for closed loop recycling, which maintain the value and quality of the raw material.

The plastic waste stream contains a lot of coloured products. When these are recycled, the many different colours blend into a dark grey colour, which can only be coloured even darker in the next loop. Therefore, as the effort to live up to the recycling targets set by the EU of 55 % recycling in 2025 and 60 % recycling in 2030 advances, we can expect to find more and more carbon black items in the plastic waste stream. These can and should be recycled into new carbon black items.