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Sorting Out Film Plastics

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

Film and flexible packaging are perfect products for high performing, lightweight packaging solutions making them a widely relied on in food and beverage, logistic and agricultural industries. The issue lies in planning for end-of-life solutions that return these materials to the production cycle to create a zero waste loop.

Recycled film plastics must compete with virgin material to increase pull from consumers and producers to adopt recycled material in end-products. With the demand for high quality recycled materials increasing so does the demand for flexible, specialised sorting technologies to meet the unique challenges of soft plastics.

When it comes to processing soft plastics, a few challenges present to recycling plants;

  • Their soft, lightweight nature causes them to float around

  • Can wrap and tangle around shaft bearings causing machine downtime

  • Wide variety of possible contaminants

  • Trap moisture, more difficult and energy intensive to clean

  • Multi-layered materials that cannot be easily separated through mechanical means

STADLER designed and installed one of the worlds first sorting plants for film plastics, INTEGRA Plastics plant in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2019 to tackle part of the challenge. INTEGRA's target to close the loop and generate pellets comparable to virgin led them to invest in robust machines and the experienced team of STADLER.

Stadler explains, "The process begins with the materials – made up of mostly PE and PP – entering the processing facility as a bale, which is shredded.

The material moves along 1km of conveyors, being fed into a ballistic separator, where it is divided into two streams, 2D and 3D. The 2D material is spread out and goes through optical sorters to separate the LDPE, PP and HDPE". During this process the HDPE film material is sorted into colours of transparent, blue, green, white and others.

Integra Sorting plant for film in Bulgaria, built by Stadler

The final result of sorting is material free of metal, glass, stones, paper, wood, etc. The sorted bales are then ready for the washing line.

Stadler’s ballistic separators, label removers, and conveyors are part of its capabilities for soft plastics recycling. STADLER has experienced a surge in the demand for sorting solutions for film and flexible packaging since it completed its first plant for Integra, in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2018. This is a clear indication of the demand for soft plastic solutions and zero waste film solutions around the world.

Australia must invest in effective sorting technologies like Stadler's ballistic separators and TOMRA's sensor based sorting for colour now for soft plastics to be competitive to virgin materials. Consumers want to see their soft plastics be given a second-life and need to regain trust in local soft plastic capabilities. Demonstrated success in other countries for many years proves this can be done.


CEMAC technologies distributes Stadler and TOMRA sorting machines and technology in Australia and New Zealand. Contact us on (03) 8400 6066 or submit an enquiry form to find out more.


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