Global plastics production has increased twenty-fold since 1950 to 322 million t/a. Since the residence time of plastic products in the use phase is less than one year for the most common application (32%), namely packaging, the increased plastic production is very quickly reflected in the waste volumes. In 2015, Austria alone generated 916,360 tons of plastic waste, 77% of which was in mixed waste. However, only 28% of Austrian plastic waste was recycled, 88% of which was single-origin waste for example from the separate collection of deposit bottles. Sorting in appropriate plants is required for the recycling of lightweight packaging (LWP). However, the technical efficiencies of up to 95 wt.-% stated by the aggregate manufacturers are not achieved there, which is in particular due to fluctuations in the volume and composition of the material stream and inadequate control facilities.
Due to these fluctuations, plastic waste in Austria is mainly used for energy, resulting in the emission of 924,000 t CO2, which could be saved if the material were recycled. Therefore, the European Union has set the target that 50% of LWP should be recycled by 2025 and 55% by 2030. In the EsKorte project, basic research is therefore being carried out to develop and test a sensor-based material flow monitoring system for plastics recycling technologies. The aim of the project is to enable intelligent networking of machine plant components on a laboratory scale and thus to lay the foundations for achieving a recycling rate of at least 55% by 2030.
Within this project, the Department of Anthropogenic Material Cycles analyses the volume flows of LWP by means of 3D laser triangulation. This includes determination of achievable detection rates and quantitative investigation of the relationship between throughput and sorting efficiency. One of the main aims is to influence the material feed of an LWP plant by developing a control strategy for belt speeds.
EsKorte is funded by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG). Project partners are the University of Leoben and the companies EVK DI Kerschhaggl GmbH, Siemens AG Österreich, Brantner Environment Group GmbH and OMNETRIC GmbH as well as STADLER Anlagenbau GmbH as associated partner.