This research is being undertaken by IRIS in collaboration with VISY Plastics, who will provide an industrial test environment for the technological innovations resulting from this work. At the time of preparing this paper, the research program had only been under way for several months and so this paper provides an overview of activities to date. The plastics recycling industry is a major potential reducer of landfill. However, several significant barriers exist which reduce the effective utilisation to much lower percentages than would otherwise be possible. One of the difficulties lies in separating different types of plastic, a necessary step before they can be recycled. Manual sorting is not cost effective and automatic systems are sensitive to dirt and produce high levels of loss when set-up to deliver high purity. One process, which has potential to improve both purity and value retention, is mineral benefaction technology such as froth flotation. Mineral benefaction has been used in the past in mining to separate valuable minerals from worthless ore. This research will investigate the application of similar processes to separate different polymers in the recyclate stream and may one day be used to mine landfill sites.
The authors wish to express their gratitude to VISY industries who provided funding for this research and their efforts to improve the ecological outcomes of their manufacturing processes. In particular thanks goes to Professor Ed Kosior who has provided significant technical input and support in this research area.