Packaging Industry Commentary - the Recyclability of Black Plastic

Packaging Industry Commentary - the Recyclability of Black Plastic

At Richmond, we are often asked whether black plastic is recyclable. The truth is that many recycling facilities struggle to detect and sort black plastic due to its colour, which means that it often ends up in energy recovery plants or landfill, rather than being recycled back into PCR plastic.

This is especially applicable to bottles, as opposed to caps and fitments.

The reason for this is that most sorting systems in recycling plants rely on NIR (Near Infra-Red) technology to identify and separate larger components, like bottles, for recycling. NIR sensors emit a beam of light that bounces off objects and then examines the resonant frequency, which indicates their composition. Unfortunately, black plastic absorbs much of this light, rendering it virtually invisible to the sorting machines. 

The introduction of NIR-detectable masterbatch (the colour ingredient in plastic manufacturing) is a significant step towards improving the recyclability of black plastic packaging. This replaces the carbon black based masterbatch with additives that reflect NIR light more effectively, even in black plastic.

It should be noted that currently available NIR detectable black is often not as “black” as traditional masterbatch. Richmond can assist in specifying the masterbatch best suited to your brand when designing a black plastic package.

Please contact us for any further information around this topic, we'll enjoy a good chat!