Laws demand higher recycling rates. International producers of branded goods and drinks companies are setting themselves ambitious sustainability targets. Non-profit organisations are mobilising and consumers prefer products in sustainable packaging. ‘We have been dealing with recycling for over 25 years. We were already investing in these technologies and processing recyclable materials into new packaging at a time when it was almost being dismissed as nothing more than a hobby,’ says Georg Lässer, Head of Recycling at Alpla. ‘With this in mind, we welcome the current developments. However, we are also calling for suitable measures to allow us to implement the ambitious targets and ideally support our customers.’
In Alpla’s two PET recycling factories (Austria and Poland), around 42,000 tons of food-safe rPET is produced each year. Since Wöllersdorf made the changeover to green electricity, the rPET produced there saves around 90% in terms of greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to virgin material. From a technical point of view, almost anything is possible these days, which also applies for the use of recycled materials in the production process.
The availability of post-consumer material is the crucial point for recyclers. According to estimates, the demand for recycled plastics should quadruple by 2030. A trend that is already easily predictable, as Christian Hude, Sales Manager at PET Recycling Team GmbH, confirms: ‘Interest is greater than ever. But in Purchasing it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to get sufficient good-quality material. Due to the high demand, prices have also increased significantly in the last two years.’
‘In our experience, many consumers are willing to correctly sort and dispose their packaging waste. But this requires easily accessible and functioning collection systems,’ emphasises Georg Lässer. Even in countries such as Austria and Germany, and indeed throughout Europe, there is still further potential in collection and sorting, he says.
In order to improve the supply of raw materials, Alpla has been cooperating with the Fromm Group PET recycling factory Texplast (Wolfen, Germany) since July. According to Georg Lässer, such cooperations have a bright future, especially when the requirements are as complementary as in this case: ALPLA processes food-safe rPET, Fromm processes colourful flakes into straps. ‘The current situation is a challenge for us and requires us to think outside the box. That applies to cooperation with new partners and to using new technologies and materials in recycling,’ says Lässer. Further cooperations are currently being considered.