The Recycling Technology Center in the Flensburg plant has never been able to complain of a lack of use. It was founded some 15 years ago, initially as an internal test and development laboratory. It didn’t take long, though, before the technical centre and its team began to attract attention on the market. Alongside its own projects, it started to conduct more and more tests on behalf of customers – until, finally, there was simply no capacity left and an extension was vital.
Whether PET, film or polystyrene, the newly opened Recycling Technology Center conducts material tests for customers from all over the world.
Service provider for customers from all over the world
Begun at the start of 2021, the modernisation works have now been largely completed. In addition to the greater capacity and the very latest technology, the technical centre also got a new name: As the Recycling Technology Center, it can now position itself more precisely as a service provider on the international market.
In cooperation with its three partner companies Stadler, Tomra and MAS, the team organises sorting and washing tests on everything from bales of waste to reprocessed pellets. “Now and then customers want to have the recycled material turned straight into preforms or bottles. In that case our colleagues from Plastics Technology in Neutraubling help us meet these requests,” says Timm Kirchhoff from the Recycling Technology Center.
The whole bandwidth of packaging plastics
The series of tests that have been conducted cover almost the entire bandwidth of packaging plastics. Alongside PET, they especially include multi-layer polypropylene film, printed films made of LDPE and foamed material such as the polystyrenes EPS and XPS.
Once a customer has booked a test, the logistics team and the Customs department help with organising the transport of the materials. Punctuality is the key here, firstly because the customer material has to be analysed beforehand and secondly because the tests run on a strict cycle. In a preliminary meeting, the team defines the start parameters, the procedure and the objective – and then it all gets going. “Many customers want to watch the tests in person, and we’re happy to accommodate that,” says Kirchhoff.
Why it pays to get into recycling
Availability is getting scarcer, prices are rising: The situation on the market for packaging plastics has got deteriorated considerably since the end of 2020. According to the IK plastic packaging association, prices for LLDPE and LDPE jumped 80 percent in the first six months of 2021, those for PE, HDPE, PS and EPS 61 to 75 percent. Both legislators and commitments by businesses require an increase in the proportion of recycled material used in packaging in the future – so demand for the corresponding materials is not going to tail off.Source: IK sustainability report 2021
Analysis down to the last detail
A number of product samples are taken and analysed during the test, more rarely samples of the washing liquids or waste water. Among the criteria applied are the bulk weight and particle size distribution. The residual humidity of all auxiliary flows and of the input and output material is also determined. The collected weights of the auxiliary flows go into a mass flow balance. “In certain cases, and if the customer requests, we also call on external labs for further analysis,” Kirchhoff adds.
Finally, the customer obtains a comprehensive report as well as a consultation meeting where the resulting data are discussed together. The tests are an important source of information for Krones too, enabling it to optimise machines and subprocesses or respond to enquiries from suppliers.
That the issue of recycling is gaining momentum internationally is evident from the capacity utilisation of the Recycling Technology Center. “We’re getting enquiries from all over the world,” Kirchhoff notes. “We’re looking forward to the next tests – and so are our customers, it seems: demand remains high.”
Here’s how it works
The material is delivered in bales. Before the actual recycling process begins, these are opened and sorted manually. The material is then taken on several conveyor belts over the universal metal separator to the shredding module. “Because we work with very differing qualities of material, we opted for a wet operating mode, in other words a shredder with process water circuit,” says Timm Kirchhoff. After the material has been shredded, the process water is separated again via an intensive washer.
The plastic particles then pass through a hopper to the MetaPure W washing module, where they are continuously processed in four successive stages: The pre-wash is followed by the intensive wash, which can be done both hot and cold, then comes the float-sink classification and, finally, the hot post-wash. In the two-stage drying process the remaining residual humidity is eliminated from the material, and the concluding visual inspection takes place. Before being packed in big bags, any remaining metal contaminants are removed in the universal metal separator.
Easy online booking
We will test your preferred material, from a bale to packaging: