In 2010, the United States generated over 31 million tons of plastic waste, and from that total, only 8% was recycled. With demand for lower cost plastics and public attention to environmental concerns increasing, the expanding recycling industry has provided an opportunity to lower raw material costs and create sustainable jobs. Traditionally, manual or optical methods that used infrared technologies were utilized to sort plastic wastes for recycling. Once these plastic wastes were sorted, they were cleaned, shredded, and melted into raw materials. These methods are costly and can experience high nonconformance rates during the sortation processes. This paper discussed an emerging technique that utilizes a novel process that sorts shredded plastic particles by using electromagnetic (EM) waves and Ferro fluids. The process involves placing various types of shredded plastic particles of into a tank filled with Ferro fluid. The plastic particles and Ferro fluid are then subjected to an EM wave by the use of an EM coil. The EM wave alters the viscosity of the Ferro fluid and causes the shredded plastic particles to rise and sink at different vertical levels within the Ferro fluid tank, based on their respective densities. This method allows for an efficient, accurate, and low cost method to sort plastic particles as compared to conventional technologies. Overviews of the model development, experimental design, and test results are provided that demonstrates proof-of-concept. The results of the study indicated that the EM separation method may offer significant cost, efficiency, and accuracy improvements over conventional methods.

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