Tomra addresses sorting flame-retardant plastics at IERC 2019
Judit Jansansa of Tomra Sorting Iberia

Tomra addresses sorting flame-retardant plastics at IERC 2019

Autosort and X-Tract machines remove up to 98 percent of plastics containing BFRs, Tomra says.

February 25, 2019

Tomra Sorting Recycling shared its knowledge of material recovery from electrical and electronic waste (WEEE) at the International Electronics Recycling Congress (IERC 2019), which was Jan. 16-18 in Salzburg, Austria. With legislation prohibiting the reuse of plastics containing brominated flame retardants (BFRs), the company discussed how combining its near-infrared (NIR) and X-ray technologies can enable the removal of up to 98 percent of BFR plastics from mixed plastic streams.

Judit Jansana, head of Tomra Sorting Iberia and part of the metal expert group at Tomra Sorting Recycling, said, “Now that plastics waste can no longer be shipped to China and simply forgotten about, there is growing demand from recyclers for preseparated polymers that are BFR-free. IERC 2019 was the perfect venue for Tomra to spotlight how its Autosort and X-Tract machines can achieve this with remarkably high efficiency.”

The company says its presentation noted that electrical and electronic devices contain from 3 to 60 percent plastic, approximately 30 percent of which contains flame retardants.

Its Autosort starts the sorting process by using NIR technology to separate the input of mixed polymers, typically generated from information technology (IT) and household appliances. The feed material is separated into polymers fractions, creating, for example, a PC/ABS (polycarbonates/acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) fraction or a HIPS (high-impact polystyrene) fraction.

These fractions pass separately through the company’s X-Tract machine that features X-ray technology to separate BFR polymers from BFR-free polymers because flame-retardant elements have higher atomic densities that absorb more energy. This technology is independent of plastics input color, so black plastic is not an issue, according to the company.

“Separating BFR polymers from recycled product is a global issue and definitely a concern for E-Scrap processors in North America, especially since the National Sword initiative,” says Eric Thurston, sales manager metals recycling for Tomra. “We have had discussions with several recyclers about upgrading their circuits to remove flame-retardant plastics from the finished material pile.”

According to Tomra, it also is possible to start the process with a straight pass through Tomra X-Tract to achieve an output of less than 1,000 parts per million (PPM), leaving a mix free of BFR for further polymer separation processes.