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UV Taggants for Recycling Plastic

Plastics can be sorted automatically even when broken into fragments.
  [vote for,

Mix a unique UV-flouresecent chemical signature into each type of recyclable plastic during manufacture.

Then when the containers are disposed of, the recycling center spreads them out on a conveyor where a high-speed pick-and-place robot shuffles everything off to one side that fluoresces a particular, signature frequency vector.

This also distinguishes plastics from other impurities such as paper and metal.

The signature frequency vectors can be linearly independent so that even if the plastic is ground to dust, a machine can tell what combination of plastics the dust is made of (at a glance) and dispose of/refine it appropriately.

jcatkeson, Apr 29 2006

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       I am not sure about the technical side of this but it sounds like a really good idea. I'm just trying to think of anydraw backs... How much would this cost to implement, who would pay for it and what about methods we have now and cost less money? If its not broken, dont fix it.
thepowerofone, Apr 29 2006

       Methods we have now involve getting people to sort their own rubbish (which doesn't extend to different types of plastic) and employing people to sort through the rubbish. I could be wrong, but I'm not aware of any automated system for doing this, and it's not an easy job to do manually. Result? Most plastic gets landfilled.   

       // if its not broken// It *is* broken, and I think this would be a genius fix. Good for you, [jcat]!
moomintroll, Apr 30 2006

       Gets my vote for "Idea of the Week". Intuition tells me that when you consider cleaning, conveying, and standardization the main preparatory functions in the stream of raw materials, this Idea serves to facilitate all parts of the preparation cycle. I don't know about the technical side of this, either. Designers of industrial robotics would need to review plans for automated sorting equipment, and managers of packaging companies would need to draw guidelines for new raw material utilization standards that included florescent dyes.
reensure, Apr 30 2006

       Firstly, good idea.   

       Recycled plastics are never as good as virgin material, and the inclusion of additives can polute the plastic somewhat, making it a vastly inferior material when recycled. In some applications this doesn't matter though.
Texticle, Apr 30 2006


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