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Researchers at Hyderabad varsity develop low-cost model to sort plastic waste

A research team, comprising doctoral scholar Rajendhar Junjuri and associate professor Dr G Manoj Kumar, employed a laser-based technique known as Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) to generate data from different types of plastics.

Written by Rahul V Pisharody | Hyderabad |
January 28, 2021 9:34:30 pm
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Kumar said recycling is one of the possible solutions to addressing the issue of mounting plastic waste but accurate identification of its type is crucial to achieving efficiency towards this end. (Representational image/ Express Photo: Praveen Khanna)

Researchers at the University of Hyderabad (UoH) have come up with a low-cost solution for sorting plastic waste, offering 97 per cent average accuracy in identification of samples. It could be a game changer in a world where the first step to recycling mounds of plastic waste is to effectively sort and identify the type and grade of plastic.

A research team, comprising doctoral scholar Rajendhar Junjuri and associate professor Dr G Manoj Kumar, employed a laser-based technique known as Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) to generate data from different types of plastics. With samples collected from a plastic waste sorting unit in Telangana’s Nirmal district to simulate the conditions of real-time application, they combined the data with machine learning to identify the types of plastic. They believe that their work has great potential in terms of giving the world a low-cost and contactless sorting system for determination of the quality of plastic waste, thereby enabling its efficient recycling.

Speaking to indianexpress.com, Kumar said recycling is one of the possible solutions to addressing the issue of mounting plastic waste but accurate identification of its type is crucial to achieving efficiency towards this end. “There are so many things made of plastic. Not everyone follows the display of its recycling number. Several items are made of a mixture, too. In our method, when we shine a laser at the waste material, it can tell us what kind of plastic it is,” he said, adding that these days, “recyclers employ labourers to sort plastic waste and use methods such as physically trying to bend it or burn it to understand the grade. Any mistake in identification can degrade the quality of the recycled product. So, it is important to identify the grade and our method has achieved 97 percent accuracy.”

For a manufacturer who uses recycled plastic, this method would help in the determination of the quality and cost of his raw material, whereas for a recycler, the process of sorting will be low-cost and highly accurate. Their research paper, ‘Low-Cost Sorting of Plastic Waste’ was in Optics & Photonics News (OPN) year review 2020, published by Optical Society of America (OSA). Asked about the potential of this solution for industrial application, he said, “What we demonstrated is a highly accurate solution which is not available anywhere for sorting plastic waste. It can help in reducing accumulation of plastic waste. But going to market with a product is not our mandate.”

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