Following an extensive analysis of current technology, US manufacturer of plant-based plastics, NatureWorks LLC found that automated systems being used today in the recycling industry are capable of sorting natural plastic packaging from other plastic packaging.

This finding is significant because it demonstrates that there is no technological barrier to recycling bottles made from plants instead of oil”, NatureWorks explains in a release.

NatureWorks has tested the eaquipment of a dozen companies. Most of the tests were performed using NatureWorks’ Ingeo polylactic acid (PLA) plastic.

This survey of automated sorting equipment performance came to similar conclusions than an earlier report [1] by the BritishWaste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP). “NIR (near-infrared) sorting systems can effectively remove PLA bioplastic and carton board from a mixed packaging stream,” concluded WRAP in its report.

The assurance of effective mechanical sorting is important to the recycling industry, which must provide pure streams of material to its customers. However, sorting is only the first step in order to effectively process bioplastic packaging at the end of the product life cycle.