March 28, 2024

5 Min Read
aleksej sarifulin / Alamy Stock Photo

Leading global sorting solutions provider, TOMRA Recycling, has announced the launch of three revolutionary applications to separate food-grade from non-food-grade plastics for PET, PP and HDPE. The breakthrough was made possible by the company's intensive research and development in deep learning, a subset of artificial intelligence (AI).

Thanks to TOMRA’s continued investment in GAIN – the company’s deep learning-based sorting add-on for its world-renowned AUTOSORT™ units – it is now possible for the first time to quickly and efficiently separate food-grade from non-food-grade plastics for PET, PP and HDPE on a large scale.

Until now, food-grade sorting has proved a real challenge for the industry as food and non-food packaging are often made of the same material and visually very similar, which makes it difficult for any traditional sorting system on the market today to differentiate and separate. Hygiene concerns and increasingly stringent industry regulations add a further layer of complexity to handling food waste in recycling.

However, TOMRA’s GAIN technology – today rebranded GAINnext™ to pay tribute to the product’s significant evolution – resolves these challenges by further enhancing the sorting performance of the company’s AUTOSORT™ units, so they are capable of identifying objects that are hard and, in some cases, even impossible to classify using traditional optical waste sensors.

Purity levels of over 95%

By combining its traditional near-infrared, visual spectrometry or other sensors with deep learning technology, TOMRA has developed the most accurate solution available on the market today. The degrees of purity that this solution is achieving – upwards of 95% for the packaging applications in customers’ plants – will expand opportunities for new revenue streams for TOMRA’s customers.  

TOMRA is also launching two non-food applications that complement the company’s existing GAINnextTM ecosystem: a PET cleaner application for even higher purity PET bottle streams and an application for deinking paper for cleaner paper streams.

Bottle-to-bottle quality

Dr. Volker Rehrmann, EVP, head of TOMRA Recycling, comments: “We have used AI technology to improve sorting performance for decades, but this latest groundbreaking application marks another industry first for us. AI has the power to transform resource recovery as we know it, and our latest sophisticated applications of deep learning and AI reinforce our position as a pioneer in this field. With its sophisticated use of deep learning, GAINnextTM enables food-grade sorting and bottle-to-bottle quality, tasks that have posed significant challenges for our industry for many years. The use of AI is driving material circularity at a time when it is needed most, with tightening regulations and increasing customer demand for technologically advanced solutions. At TOMRA, we're proud to be driving the change in sorting.”

Solving the most complex sorting tasks

Indrajeed Prasad, product manager deep learning at TOMRA Recycling, adds: “The use of deep learning technology not only automates manual sorting but also enables the industry to achieve high-quality recyclates through more granular sorting. Thanks to its ability to detect thousands of objects by material and shape in milliseconds, GAINnextTM  solves even the most complex sorting tasks. Plus, with its integrated deep learning software, it offers the opportunity to adapt to future demands. We are delighted to be able to launch these innovative and much-needed solutions to meet the ever more stringent quality requirements for sorting outputs, driven by the increasing demand from consumer brands for more high purity recycled content.”

Field-proven technology

GAINnextTM ’s deep learning technology has been proven in the field for many years. TOMRA was the first in the industry to introduce deep learning technology in 2019 with an application to identify and remove PE-silicon cartridges from polyethylene (PE) streams. An application for wood chip classification soon followed. To date, more than 100 AUTOSORTTM units with GAINnextTM are installed at material recovery facilities across the globe.

Among the early adopters of the brand-new applications are market-leading plants such as Berry Circular Polymers’ flagship facility in Leamington Spa, Viridor Avonmouth in Bristol –

 the UK’s largest multi-polymer facility – and the French Nord Pal Plast plant, which is owned by the global Dentis Group.

Feedback from the market on the latest GAINnextTM developments has been resoundingly positive. Professor Edward Kosior, founder and CEO of Nextek Ltd and its NEXTLOOPP initiative that aims to create food-grade recycled polymer from advanced mechanical recycling, was among the most recent visitors to TOMRA’s test center and confirms: “TOMRA’s ground-breaking AI system, GAINnextTM, has propelled the recycling industry to an exciting pivotal juncture in plastic packaging sorting and creates new opportunities for closing the loop on many plastics in food-grade applications. GAINnextTM is poised to accelerate the most simplified, cost-effective and highly efficient sorting system on the market. We’re immensely proud to see our industry moving forward on this transformational journey.”

More about GAINnextTM at NPE and WasteExpo 2024

For more information about GAINnextTM, visit TOMRA during NPE in Orlando, Florida, May 6-10, stand #S35185, at WasteExpo in Las Vegas, Nevada, May 6-9, stand #3281 or visit  https://www.tomra.com/en/gainnext.

TOMRA Recycling Sorting 

TOMRA Recycling Sorting designs and manufactures sensor-based sorting technologies for the global recycling and waste management industry to transform resource recovery and create value in waste.  

 

The company was the first to develop advanced waste and metals sorting applications use high capacity near infrared (NIR) technology to extract the most value from resources and keep materials in a loop of use and reuse. To date, around 10,000 systems have been installed in 100 countries worldwide.  

 

TOMRA Recycling is a division of TOMRA Group. TOMRA was founded on an innovation in 1972 that began with the design, manufacturing and sale of reverse vending machines (RVMs) for automated collection of used beverage containers. Today, TOMRA is leading the resource revolution to transform how the planet’s resources are obtained, used and reused to enable a world without waste. The company’s other business divisions are TOMRA Food and TOMRA Collection.  

 

TOMRA has approximately 105,000 installations in over 100 markets worldwide and had total revenues of about 12 billion NOK in 2022. The Group employs 5,000 globally and is publicly listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. The company headquarters are in Asker, Norway. 

 For further information about TOMRA, visit www.tomra.com and follow TOMRA Recycling Sorting on LinkedInTwitter, Facebook, and on Instagram

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