TotalEnergies, Recycleye, and Valorplast have collaboratively demonstrated a new food-grade polypropylene (PP) mechanical recycling process based on AI and computer vision.

The new process has been developed as part of a research project, called OMNI, ongoing between the three companies.

The project aims to leverage AI and machine learning technologies to identify and separate food-grade PP material from household post-consumer waste streams.

The broader target of the scheme is to enhance the overall circularity of PP-based food packaging.

According to the companies, the new process developed under this project has demonstrated an efficient way to decontaminate food-grade PP waste, which is sorted by AI and computer vision.

As part of the demonstration, Recycleye developed and trained an AI model, which was then supplied and characterised by Valorplast.

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The companies discovered that this AI and robotic sorting model was able to sort material at a 50% pick rate of food-grade material, with a purity of less than 95%.

Furthermore, this sorting activity helped in producing material that was used for further decontamination on a semi-industrial pilot, which was based on mechanical recycling technologies.

Utilising its polymer expertise, TotalEnergies then carried out the production of odourless, clean recycled PP, which was declared suitable for packaging applications.

Recycleye CEO Victor Dewulf said: “We are extremely excited to see this successful application of our robust AI-powered sorting technology at a semi-industrial scale.

“This application opens the possibility of creating new markets for recycled plastics materials; ultimately changing the economics of recycling.”

OMNI is one of the seven projects selected by Citeo in October 2022. Citeo is a company that aims to minimise the environmental impacts of household packaging/paper waste.

TotalEnergies Polymers senior vice-president Nathalie Brunelle said: “This project not only demonstrates how cutting-edge technology can improve material circularity but also paves the way for a wider range of accessible applications for recycled polymers to serve our customers.”