Our current plastic pollution problem is quite evident. Each year 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean, that is the weight of 800.000 Eiffel towers each year. This is not a situation we should be in!
We don't put it there on purpose, it ends there because plastic recycling is hard. Over the years we have created many different flavors of plastic, each with its own special properties/characteristics. The downside to this is that these different types or flavors also need to be separated for recycling.
Sorting these plastics can be very difficult. On the surface they look, feel and smell the same, but if we recycle these plastics altogether, we get an unusable material. That is why it is essential to sort plastic according to its chemical type.
Something that can make sorting of plastic simpler is Near-Infrared (NIR) spectroscopy, a well-known identification method for identifying types of plastic. But these NIR devices are only for the big boys: they are expensive, closed source, and cannot be used out in the field. That is why I started building my own. Let me take you on a journey in building your own spectroscope.
At the end of the project, I will deliver a simple, open-source, spectroscope that can identify the 5 most common plastics, for a fraction of the price of industrial NIR sensors. It will be less accurate and might be slower, but by being able to detect the five most common plastics, it already covers 75% of the plastics products.
This scanner enables anyone around the world that is recycling plastic to improve their quality and allows others to get started recycling plastic!