The issue: not all transparent plastics are the same, even though they may look like it at first glance. This makes it difficult for recycling companies to differentiate the different types. In this K-MAG interview, Markus Krall explains how his company rises to this challenge, and describes how sorting to a high purity promotes sustainability.
Mr. Krall, what are the difficulties in recycling products that are made from different types of plastic?
Markus Krall: Recycling only works if the plastic materials are first cleaned and sorted to a high purity. This is especially problematic when the plastic residues look very similar. Take the "sneeze guard", for example. These are transparent plastic sheets that are made from different polymers. They can be made up of PMMA, polycarbonate, PET, PVC, or styrene-based thermoplastics and must not be mixed during the recycling process. It means the first challenge is to identify the plastic residues that come to us from the recycling drop-off centers. We must subsequently cleanly separate the plastic factions.
How do you face these sorting challenges?
Krall: It is an art that we have perfected. In fact, we can separate all delivered sheets and broken items made of transparent plastic with high purity and return them into the raw materials cycle. Our company has 30 years of experience in this field, which we combine with tried-and-tested, reliable technologies. We also collaborate with universities and institutes to develop innovations that make us even more efficient and versatile without compromising reliability.
The standard process first guides the panels we receive via a conveyor system to the sorting room for conventional sorting. We manually remove panels we cannot include in a high-purity sorting and separation process. That means only the material scheduled to be ground is transported to the crushing units. After various cleaning and color sorting steps, it ends up in the form of regrind in the provided big packs.
That means you end up with high purity regrind at the end of the process?
Krall: That is our pledge to our clients! We strive for the highest quality as this is something our customers require since they process the regrind directly. They either use it to manufacture new products without an intermediate step, or they use compounding to produce regranulate that can be used to make injection molded parts.
What products can be made using the granulated material?
Krall: The high level of purity means there are hardly any restrictions. Our regrind is not being downcycled but is reused according to the bottle-to-bottle principle. The newly created products can subsequently be used for many years.
How does your technology support the transition to a sustainable plastics industry?
Krall: Our work over the past 30 years has contributed substantially to greater sustainability. We return plastic residues that accumulate on the market to the materials cycle. Our skills continue to improve, giving way to more and more automation. We use the latest technologies that make work easier for our staff and eliminate many sources of error. This allows us to meet growing market demand and to further optimize our output.
All buildings on our factory premises are designed to maximize energy efficiency. The roofs are equipped with solar panels. Thanks to the latest design and technology, the 500kW solar system delivers a high level of efficiency. This enables us to meet the energy requirements of our systems and buildings by primarily using our own eco-friendly energy production.