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Plastics Recycling Technologies

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There is a wide variety of technologies and processes for recycling plastics.

nyc's current technology
evaluating different technologies

recyclability: infrastructure
sorting recyclables
plastics recyclability
other cities' plastics recycling programs 

NYC's Current Technology

NYC's recycling vendor, Sims Municipal Recycling, uses a variety of sorting and processing technologies and methods to separate plastic commodities from the City's commingled recycling stream of metal, glass, plastic and cartons. These include screening, optical and infra-red sorting, and manual separation.

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Evaluating Different Technologies 

What's needed for NYC's recycling program to be viable are stable market conditions, proven technologies, and outlets for large quantities of materials. NYC and Sims both research and evaluate emerging technologies to increase the marketability of the plastics we collect.

Perhaps the biggest recent technological advancements to recycling plastics are optical sorters. These  machines recognize differences between plastics that are unnoticeable to the human eye. Plastic objects on a conveyor belt pass beneath optical sensors. Each piece of plastic is "read" and then an air jets blow all plastics of a certain type into a bin or bay, while leaving the remaining material on the conveyor belt.

Optical sorters are extremely expensive. A different sorter is needed for each type of plastic that will be separated at the recycling facility. As such, the facility weighs the benefits of investing in additional equipment based on how much a type of plastic is worth on secondary markets and how much of it is found in the waste stream.

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