PragmatIC leads project to increase the value of plastic waste

AIPIA member PragmatIC Semiconductor, a leading supplier of flexible electronics, has announced it is working on an Innovate UK, Manufacturing Made Smarter project to increase the quality of plastic recyclate. In the project, code-named SORT?IT, packaging will be given unique digital IDs to facilitate the tracking and separation of packaging waste in a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). The aim is to improve recovery through digitizing waste sorting using PragmatIC‘s low-cost RFID.

The project address the problem facing food and drink packaging manufacturers, which are struggling to secure enough high-quality, food grade PET recyclate (FGPET) to meet their statutory targets for recycled content. This is because even in countries with a good collection infrastructure, like the UK, where household recycling schemes now capture about 45% of municipal waste, the co-mingled nature of the recovered material makes it very difficult to separate the FGPET from other plastics. 

Commonly this inability to separate these plastics leads to downcycling of this valuable FGPET, most often to fibre; or in the worst case, losing it to landfill. With the projected demand for rFGPET (recycled FGPET) outstripping present supply, SORT-IT is one of a number of initiatives to increase capture of this material and, if successful, this could lead to MRFs being able to grade their plastic output and appropriately price the different bundles efficiently.

“We are excited to be leading another project that will use our technology to have a positive and lasting impact on the sustainability of our planet’s resources,” said Scott White, CEO of PragmatIC Semiconductor. “The problem of circularity is a complex one, and we see embedded electronics has the potential to be activated at multiple points through the life of a package, solving a part of the puzzle at each stage.”

As part of the project, PragmatIC is collaborating with a range of companies in this ecosystem who believe intelligent labels offer interesting possibilities in sorting. “This feasibility study will provide a much needed proof point for the Return on Investment (ROI) of sorting using RFID” said Bobby Manesh, research lead at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre Cymru (AMRC). “With the data gained we expect to be able to take this project forward to larger scale deployments with partners in 2022.”

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