Applicability of the use of chemical markers for the discrimination of black coloured plastics during the recycling of children’s products- TRACER






The use of post-consumer recycled plastic in Europe in 2021 reached 9.9% of the total. This represents a 20% increase compared to 2020, however, the circularity targets set for 2050 require a substantial increase in these figures in the transition to a climate-neutral economy.

Current sorting techniques in plastics recycling plants have difficulties in detecting the presence of black plastic and it is quickly discarded with no further use to be offered to incineration or, worse, landfill. Added to this is the potential presence of toxic substances.

But can these plastics be pre-identified for sorting and converted into raw materials suitable for the manufacture of recycled products, and can they be used in children’s products with high safety requirements?

We have proposed a research project in which chemicals, called markers, are used in the development of new plastic formulations. Simultaneously, a tailor-made vision system is being developed to detect and read the presence of these markers in the sorting plant and, consequently, to facilitate their sorting for the recycling of black plastics.

To this end, firstly, the polymer integrating the selected marker will be developed in order to assess the mechanical and chemical safety properties of the materials and evaluate its ability to be detected.

This is followed by the development of an artificial detection system to ensure that it works effectively and provides accurate and consistent results.

Finally, the system will be validated in the CIRCULAR INDUSTRY pilot plant in a semi-industrial environment that allows it to be scaled up with multi-composition black plastic waste in order to prove the industrial replicability of the developments made.

The use of chemicals as markers in black plastics allows the magnetic detection of a single tracer. X-ray fluorescence makes it possible to encode several markers based on rare earth oxides at concentrations above 1000 ppm in black polymers. If these developments are successful, it will be possible to identify black plastic in pre-recycling sorting plants by adapting a machine vision system capable of reading the specific wavelength, so that it can be considered as a suitable raw material in the manufacture of recycled plastic products.

These developments will produce safe, chemically marked recycled black plastics for reinsertion into the recycling chain.

The TRACER project is funded by the Valencian Council of Innovation, Industry, Commerce and Tourism. This innovation project has the collaboration of the companies VICAM TOYS, Claudio Reig and Juguetes Cayro, toy producers, Lyra Tecnologías machinery manufacturer, and AL-Farben, manufacturer of inorganic pigments.

TRACER, your ally for the recycling of black plastics.


Referee: CONV23/DGINN/25
Start: 01/01/2023
Duration: 12 month
Status: Initiated
Amount: 270.000€


Name: Luisa Marín
Phone: +34 96 555 44 75


Agreement financed by the Valencian Council of Innovation, Industry, Commerce and Tourism CONV23/DGINN/25


Service of information and advice for public financing of R&D&I