An Buhler Sortex optical sorting system is optimized for RPET bottling operation.

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An optical sorting system that can separate color and foreign material contaminants from post-consumer PET packaging helped what is said to be the world’s largest bottle-to-bottle PET recycler to raise its output quality to near-perfect purity. The system was designed by Switzerland’s Buhler Sortex (U.S. office in Stockton, Calif.) for CarbonLite, Riverside, Calif.

            According to Buhler plastics applications specialist Louis Fernandez, the company drew on more than 60 years of successful optical sorting in the food industry to combine its sophisticated double-sided viewing capability, precise contaminant ejectors, and enhanced InGaAs (indium-gallium arsenide) technology in a high-capacity RPET system that is said to deliver consistent performance while maximizing yield.

            Three-year old Carbonlite now recovers over 2 billion used PET bottles annually, which it processes into pellets that are then made into new plastic beverage bottles by customers such as PepsiCo and Nestle Waters North America. According to CarbonLite chairman Leon Farahnick, the dedicated Sortex sorting system was selected for its ability to carry out simultaneous, multi-characteristic sorting of RPET flakes, including removal of a wide range of foreign material. The system can sort incoming flakes for color while simultaneously removing aluminum, paper, and unwanted polymers such as PVC, PE, PP, PS, and nylon. “Thanks to this technology, we have been able to simplify the stringent recycling process required to produce food-grade RPET. This, in turn, has reduced the plant’s energy consumption and carbon footprint.”

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