The plastic waste camera that sees the ‘invisible’

The plastic waste camera that sees the ‘invisible’

April 3, 2019
Marcia González

Specim FX series cameras provide reliable classification results based on the target’s chemical composition – and the FX50 could be worth its weight in gold for black plastics sorting

The pileup of plastic waste is one of the biggest environmental concerns the world is currently facing, albeit there is at least widespread consensus that something drastic needs to be done about it – and the sooner the better. For obvious reasons, the recycling of plastics and the recyclability of plastics is a vital component to keep what otherwise might end up polluting the environment in the supply chain for as long as possible.

Due to versatility and aesthetics, black-coloured plastic (otherwise known as ABS or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is widely used in various sectors, especially in electronics. It is cheap as it is made using low-value, multi-coloured waste plastic and production is easier to control. But some plastics – black plastic for instance – pose a significant conundrum for recyclers and recycling technologies.

It is nigh-on impossible to sort plastics based on plastic type, either via a visual inspection or from RGB camera information. Even the more advanced techniques struggle with black plastics and as a result, they are more often than not burned or dumped into landfills. A big stumbling block is that normal near infrared (NIR) sensors at recycling plants are unable to detect the black pigment, so black plastics usually go unrecycled worldwide and subsequently end up adversely contributing to climate change.

A potential breakthrough in this regard could be Specim’s new FX50 camera, which can identify different plastic types quickly and reliable despite the color, which means that the valuable materials can now be harvested and reused, even separated from black plastics. The product is being unveiled for the first time at a tradeshow in Amsterdam next week.

Plastic Free World Conference & Expo 2019 will take place from Thursday 27 June to Friday 28 June, at the Kap Europa, Frankfurt Messe, Frankfurt, Germany. To register for this highly focused and solutions-driven event, please click here. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, please email

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