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Global Press Releases


Quickly separating black plastic packaging according to type

  • Black pigment from LANXESS for coloring recyclable plastic packaging
  • Enables reflectivity that is up to 20 percent better nearinfrared detection in automated sorting plants
  • Reduced magnetic properties prevent false alarms

Cologne, September 23, 2021 – Consumers, environmentalorganizations, politicians and industry are increasingly taking actionto reduce microplastics. Reusing plastic waste as a raw material alsocontributes to this, but requires that the different plastics beseparated according to type first. “With our latest black pigment, wecan help to increase the recycling rate for plastic packaging, which isstill far too low around the world,” says Stefano Bartolucci, GlobalMarket Segment Manager for Plastics in the Inorganic Pigments(IPG) business unit at LANXESS. With Bayferrox 303 T, the specialtychemicals company has developed a black pigment for coloring blackplastic that reflects 20 percent of near-infrared radiation (NIR). Thisenables plastics to be identified efficiently and cost-effectively withthe aid of NIR detectors like those used for sorting waste. “Plasticpackaging colored with carbon black, on the other hand, as is used inlarge part today, does not reflect any radiation and therefore cannotbe detected in sorting plants,” says Bartolucci.

Near-infrared detection of composite materials in automatedsorting plants

Properly separating waste and producing recycling materials that areseparated according to type is expensive. It is difficulties in sortingwaste that are currently causing the recycling rate of plastic to remainfar too low worldwide. Composite materials and black plastic areparticularly difficult to sort, as are foils that are glued together or smalltransparent trays made from PET. The LANXESS pigment Bayferrox 303 T can make a decisive contribution to recycling black plastic packaging.

In automated recycling plants, near-infrared detection (NIR spectroscopy) is used to quickly sort plastic waste into different types. To this end, infrared cameras are installed above the conveyor belts in most cases. However, black plastic packaging such as foils cannot be identified correctly by the optical sensors due to its color and consequently cannot be sorted. Unlike the carbon black pigments often used in the plastics industry, Bayferrox 303 T reflects infrared radiation, thus allowing identification with the aid of NIR detectors. As a result, black plastic items such as packaging films or trays can be better identified with the iron-manganese mixed oxide and sent for recycling.

Nowadays, three types of pigments are principally used to color plastic packaging. In terms of quantity, carbon black is the pigment most frequently used for black packaging materials, as it is available at low cost on the market and exhibits high color strength. But it does not reflect infrared radiation and items made with it remain virtually invisible in sorting plants. Thus large quantities of plastic packaging cannot be sent for recycling.

Complex inorganic colored pigments (CICPs) and manganese ferrites, of which the latter are far more cost-effective, are high-quality alternatives to carbon black thanks to their property profiles – because they reflect infrared light. The iron-manganese mixed oxide Bayferrox 303 T from LANXESS also offers color strength that is 20 percent higher than comparable pigments.

Reduced magnetic properties prevent false alarms

The reduced magnetic properties of Bayferrox 303T make it ideal for coloring plastic packaging. Magnetizable pigments can trigger false alarms during quality control processes in the food industry, for example, disrupting production as a result. After all, metal detectors cannot distinguish between pigments and pieces of metal in an edibleitem. This is why metal contaminants must be avoided in both themasterbatch and the packaging.

“Thanks to a special manufacturing process, we have succeeded insynthesizing a pigment with an extremely low magnetic value. If youcompare our Bayferrox 303 T with standard manganese ferrites, themagnetism has been reduced by more than 50 percent,” saysBartolucci. “With our black pigment, false alarms in production can beavoided and a higher degree of process reliability can be achievedbecause there are fewer interruptions,” he adds.

You can find more detailed information about LANXESS products forcoloring plastics on the website at

LANXESS is a leading specialty chemicals company with sales of EUR 6.1 billion in 2020. The company currently has about 14,800 employees in 33 countries. The core business of LANXESS is the development, manufacturing and marketing of chemical intermediates, additives, specialty chemicals and plastics. LANXESS is listed in the leading sustainability indices Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI World and Europe) and FTSE4Good.

Forward-Looking Statements
This company release contains certain forward-looking statements, including assumptions, opinions, expectations and views of the company or cited from third party sources. Various known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors could cause the actual results, financial position, development or performance of LANXESS AG to differ materially from the estimations expressed or implied herein. LANXESS AG does not guarantee that the assumptions underlying such forward-looking statements are free from errors, nor does it accept any responsibility for the future accuracy of the opinions expressed in this presentation or the actual occurrence of the forecast developments. No representation or warranty (expressed or implied) is made as to, and no reliance should be placed on, any information, estimates, targets and opinions contained herein, and no liability whatsoever is accepted as to any errors, omissions or misstatements contained herein, and accordingly, no representative of LANXESS AG or any of its affiliated companies or any of such person's officers, directors or employees accepts any liability whatsoever arising directly or indirectly from the use of this document.

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