TOMRA Sorting Recycling hosted a global conference on October 10th and 11th to share insights from leading experts in recycling and waste management and to demonstrate the company’s breakthroughs in sensor-based sorting machines.
With the theme ‘Future Perspectives in Recycling,’ the two-day event in Germany featured a series of presentations and group discussions at the Rhein-Mosel Congress Centre in Koblenz and technical demonstrations in TOMRA’s Test Center at its European headquarters in Koblenz. Participants comprised an international mix of industry leaders, business representatives, and members of the specialist media.
Tom Eng, Senior Vice President and Head of TOMRA Sorting Solutions, Recycling, commented: “By bringing together some of the world’s most knowledgeable experts in recycling and waste management, this conference stimulated a fantastic exchange of ideas.”
A popular highlight of the congress was the series of presentations and question-and-answer sessions focusing on the circular economy – of particular interest at a time when the environmental responsibility of retail brands is having an increasing influence on consumers’ purchasing decisions.
Congress visitors also welcomed the opportunity to see two notable technical innovations in action at TOMRA´s Test Center: the new AUTOSORT LASER has made it possible to separate thin, thick or opaque glass from Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), to help reduce landfill costs and create additional revenue through the recovery of saleable products; and delegates were given an exclusive preview of AUTOSORT BLACK, the first machine capable of sorting black plastic packaging materials, which will help meet ever-tightening sorting and recycling quotas. BLACK will be brought to market in early 2018.
In addition, visitors also separated into two groups – one with a focus on waste, the other with a focus on metal – to attend demonstrations looking at the future challenges facing their particular specializations.
One of the two most significant technical innovations demonstrated in the Test Center, the AUTOSORT LASER, is a sensor-based sorting machine utilizing laser technology. Congress visitors were shown how LASER’s near-infrared (NIR) laser sorting technology ensures sorting stability and makes it possible to separate glass from transparent polymers, which are increasingly used in items such as syringes, lighters, and baby and cosmetic bottles.
The other significant technical innovation, the combined use of the AUTOSORT and AUTOSORT BLACK machines, has made it possible to recover valuable black polymers from packaging materials. Whereas sensor-based sorting technology based on NIR detection is unable to detect or differentiate between black plastics, the BLACK plastic sorter can sort differing polymers such as black PE, black PP, black PET, and styrene. To enable this process, the AUTOSORT machine first recovers the valuable black plastic materials, which are normally part of residue streams, to create a black single stream.
Another plastics recycling machine, the AUTOSORT FLAKE, was also demonstrated in the Test Center. By combining color detection and enhanced material information to sort by color and material at the same time, this has brought new standards of high-precision sorting to a market which increasingly demands high-grade outputs with rPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate) plastics. FLAKE, like LASER, deploys TOMRA’s patented FLYING BEAM technology combined with the FOURLINE technology, which has the highest resolution NIR (close to 1mm) available on the sorting market.
Increasing the profitability of metal sorting
Looking at metal sorting, demonstrations of the X-TRACT and COMBISENSE machines illustrated how combined sensor-based technologies make the sorting and subsequent sale of zorba (shredded nonferrous scrap metals) more profitable. By passing zorba through an X-Ray Transmission unit to separate aluminum from heavy metals, X-TRACT works with such high precision that it can achieve aluminum purities of 98-99%. From the remaining heavy metals, COMBISENSE then sorts out valuable fragments of copper, brass and grey metals.
In another Test Center demonstration, TOMRA explained its enhanced LIBS (laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy) sorting technology. By employing a laser, which can monitor the entire width of the belt, this has the unique advantage of eliminating the complex and costly need to separate materials into single lanes. This enables the sorting and separation of different aluminum wrought alloys with unprecedentedly high levels of efficiency, achieving sorting accuracies of 99% purity (or greater) with high throughputs of three to seven tons per hour.
Source: TOMRA Sorting Recycling