Dubbed NIR Black, the product helps to improve recyclability and sustainability


Techmer PM's new NIR Black pigment allows black plastics to be accurately sorted using near-infrared sorting equipment, which boosts the recyclability of such previously problematic plastics. (Credit: Business Wire)

Black plastic, widely used in food trays and other consumer packaging, causes endless headaches for plastics recyclers. That’s because the carbon black pigment typically used to achieve the black color in such products absorbs the near-infrared (NIR) light used by recyclers to effectively sort the material stream. That leads to tons of mixed plastics not being properly sorted, which means they cannot be recycled and instead end up in a landfill.

echmer PM, LLC, the Clinton, Tenn.-based compounder and materials design firm, is taking steps to address this challenge. The company has just introduced new, improved grades of an NIR-sortable black colorant. This technology allows NIR reflection to enable accurate sorting at the recycling facility, while maintaining the product’s black color.

The product has earned a “Preferred” rating from the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and is FDA compliant, which allows for its use in food containers. By enabling verifiable recycling of black plastic, it also allows brand owners who use carbon black in their products to better meet sustainability goals while maintaining their desired brand identity.

Techmer PM says the technology, while primarily tested thus far in HDPE, also works effectively with polypropylene and PET resins, and all are suitable for FDA applications. Techmer can custom tailor solutions for each application, with variables to include such factors as resin grade, thickness, and the level of post-consumer recycled (PCR) content.

“Techmer already is working on next-generation technology that will offer even better opacity, allowing for improved coverage of PCR while using less color concentrate,” according to Steve Smith, Techmer PM’s rigid packaging market manager. That product should hit the market in just a few months.

While other NIR-sortable black colorant solutions exist in the market, Techmer PM says its latest offering provides best-in-class coverage, using the latest colorant technology. Additionally, the company can bring its decades of formulation expertise to bear on the specific aspects of each application.

“We formulate with multiple components to improve upon the offerings from the raw material suppliers resulting in a blacker black,” notes Kimberly Williamson, color innovation and technology manager at Techmer PM’s Clinton headquarters. “We are able to quickly iterate in our lab using analytical technology to measure reflectance in the NIR region ourselves, rather than having to wait weeks for each submission to be subjected to the official APR test.”

“Meanwhile,” says Smith, “Techmer PM is capable of manufacturing our new NIR black products in most of our existing seven North American facilities to enable faster delivery.”

Source: Company Press Release