Development of a tracer-based sorting and recycling system for plastic packaging

In the research project MaReK, the technology Tracer-Based-Sorting (TBS) is adapted and scientifically analyzed for the identification and sorting of plastic packaging waste - from packaging development to detection and sorting technology to high-quality material recycling. With the technology developed by project partner Polysecure GmbH, it is possible to mark plastic packaging according to its application (e.g. food versus non-food), specification (e.g. PP homo versus PP block copolymer) or commercial brand and thus identify it reliably and efficiently during waste sorting. Thus, TBS can produce high-quality recyclates and close material cycles: Food packaging becomes food packaging again. The substitution of plastics produced from crude oil with recycled plastics could save about 2 kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kg of recycled material. High-quality recycling also contributes to solving the global "plastic litter" problem through the systematic control of waste flows.


TBS process


Key aspects of the MaReK project

Research on the recycling of lightweight plastic packaging including determination of the technical residual value (material properties) and the value-added potential

New and/or further development and industrial testing of the "Tracer-Based-Sorting" process with real batches of lightweight packaging waste (pilot plant), in addition further development of the tracer and detection technology

Applied innovation research to analyze drivers and barriers of the developed technology and its application in the complex network of stakeholders

Comprehensive analysis of energy and material flows and evaluation of possible environmental impacts of the developed technology, taking into account the life cycle perspective


Project partners

Partners in the MaReK project consortium:


Associated project partner:

  • Umwelttechnik BW GmbH (Federal Agency for Environmental Technology and Resource Efficiency Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart)


Coordinators of the joint consortia:

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Claus Lang-Koetz

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jörg Woidasky

Pforzheim University of Applied Sciences, Institute for Industrial Ecology (INEC), Germany

Tiefenbronner Str. 65, 75175 Pforzheim

Phone +49 7231-28-6427



The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the framework programme "Research for Sustainable Development" (FONA3) in the funding programme "Plastics in the Environment". The project is supervised by Projektträger Jülich (Projektträgerschaft Ressourcen und Nachhaltigkeit).

Funding reference: 033R195A, 033R195B, 033R195C, 033R195D, 033R195E

Duration: 01.07.2017 – 31.12.2020