Sortation topics

Package sortation is the first portion of the comingled recycling process. MRFs make the first, rough cut at sorting these packages into bales of like materials. The plastic bales are then sent to the plastics reclaimer where the initial section of the process is a more refined package sortation using similar technologies as the MRFs. Packages that are missorted at either the MRF or the plastic reclaimer are nearly always destined for the landfill so proper sorting is critical to the recyclability of a package. These sortation topics explain how sortation matters in evaluating the recyclability of a plastic item and provide some background on APR’s sortation test methods.

The laboratory test methods specified by APR are designed to evaluate the impact of an innovation on the combined MRF and plastic reclaimer sortation processes with typically used technology.

If an article doesn’t successfully pass through sortation it will not reach the downstream process, and certain APR test methods will be invalid. Therefore, APR strongly recommends that any article or innovation with a likelihood of failing sortation, or where the fate of the article or innovation in a sortation system is unknown, should first be tested using APR’s sortation test protocols.

APR offers three Benchmark tests that evaluate the sorting potential of a plastic article:

  1. Evaluation of the Near Infrared (NIR) Sorting Potential of a Whole Plastic Article (SORT-B-01)
  2. Evaluation of Size Sorting Potential for Articles with at Least 2 Dimensions Less than 2 Inches (SORT-B-02)
  3. Evaluation of Sorting Potential for Plastic Articles Utilizing Metal, Metalized, or Metallic Printed Components (SORT-B-03)

APR also offers a Practice document that instructs test users on proper preparation of articles for sortation testing:

  1. A Practice for Compressing Plastic Articles for Laboratory Evaluation (SORT-PR-01)

APR is actively working on developing additional sortation tests, including tests for two-dimensional (i.e. flat) articles, and for colored articles. These tests will be added as they become available.