Machine learning helps researchers separate compostable from conventional plastic waste with ‘very high’ accuracy

Compostable and recyclable plastics are often mistaken for each other due to their similar appearance, resulting in adverse impacts on the environment. Disposable plastics are everywhere and are essential for our day-to-day lives. In an effort to reduce non-biodegradable waste, many companies are manufacturing and selling compostable plastics, which can degrade in controlled conditions.

Unfortunately, compostable plastics are often mistaken for conventional plastics and are incorrectly disposed of and recycled. Because traditional plastic recycling processes rely on single-stream variations, the presence of compostable plastics can contaminate plastic waste streams, leading to reduced recycling efficiency. Compostable plastics also contaminate compost because they may require different conditions than those found in composting piles in order to break down. Therefore, it is important to be mindful when disposing of compostable and recyclable plastics.

Proper labeling of compostable and recyclable plastics is one way to reduce confusion among consumers. In some cases, it may be difficult to distinguish between the two. However, more effort needs to be taken to ensure that compostable plastics are placed in designated compost bins and not sent to landfill sites or recycling centers, and that recyclable plastics are placed in appropriate recycling bins.

It is also important to recognize that compostable and recyclable plastics are not meant to replace each other. There are scenarios in which compostable plastics may be more suitable for certain products, and vice-versa. As such, businesses should carefully consider which material is best used for particular applications and provide clear labeling so consumers know exactly what they are dealing with. This will help reduce the amount of incorrect disposal of compostable and recyclable plastics and the pollution it causes in our environment.






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