Going Green with Color Technology: Variation in Plastics Makes Sorting Recyclables Easy

While various colors are visually appealing, there is a more important function to different hues: color-coding plays an important role in plastic recycling.

Color variation among plastic products may provide aesthetic appeal, but it is also is an important part of a color-coding system intended for a more eco-friendly world. Optical sorting has been an effective method of recycling and sorting in the glass industry for quite some time, and with an increased need for recycled plastic products, color sorting has now become the norm in the plastic industry as well.

According to the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency), “post-consumer plastics recycling is in its infancy and is experiencing rapid growth.” The use of post-consumer plastics and plastic resins are dependent on color technology for color sorting, which has been directly linked to marketability. The color sorting process has traditionally relied on the hand sorting of the various glass and plastic materials, but a new Phase I plan has been proposed that uses state-of-the-art color matching technology. As technology strives to meet the demands of a greener world, industries are also faced with the new challenges of achieving these standards.

color technology
Plastic materials come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but it’s all about color when it comes to sustainability.

The importance of color measurement

There is a wide array of technology that accompanies the color sorting process of plastic materials. Both mechanical and optical color-sorting technology and hand-held identification instrumentation needs to be versatile and consistent to meet the various material compositions and color variations present in plastic products. However, the ability to accurately quantify color measurements does present its challenges, especially when you consider various resin types and differences in transparency or opaqueness of plastic materials.

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Due to the nature and diversity of plastic products, color measurement must extend beyond transmitted or reflected spectral data to also include CIE L*a*b* Color, Yellowness, Haze, and other observable traits. Proper measurement instrumentation and techniques vary according to particular material attributes. Whether facing the challenges of translucent or opaque plastic bottles or raw and/or recycled plastic pellets, the ability to obtain accurate color measurement result is dependent up the right tools and support processes.

color technology
Plastic materials come in a variety of resin types, shapes, and sizes, but color coding is by far the easiest and best way to optimize sorting and recyclability.

Choosing the right instrumentation

Color variations are the future of a greener world, so the technology to support this process must be consistent from manufacturing all the way through the recycling process. Spectrophotometers are versatile tools that are used for obtaining accurate results and can accommodate most color measurement applications. This instrumentation uses specific geometric technology that most closely resembles how the human-eye perceives color. The benefit to using advanced instrumentation is that it decreases the variables from various light sources and textures in order to accurately quantify color measurement for consistent results and comparisons. This is crucial towards marketability and matching the color variations  needed for after-market sustainability.

Regulatory agencies and consumers alike demand products with a consideration toward the future health of our world. Color variation and technology support the movement towards a reduce-reuse-and-recycle generation and the processes used to create these variations must be consistent from beginning to end. HunterLab has developed spectrophotometers that are designed specifically to meet the challenges of the plastic industry and propel them into the future. Their experience spans over six decades with cutting-edge technology and unsurpassed customer support. Contact HunterLab today and learn how they can help take your company toward a greener future.

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