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    Innovation
    PET, polyolefin, and polystyrene on a single line
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    Krones’ most versatile recycling line yet has gone into operation at a German recycler’s plant.
    • The various types of plastic all follow the same path through the recycling line.

    What is the difference between garbage and waste? The first is a nuisance while the second can be a valuable resource. One that can be used not just once but many times over. High-quality waste materials such as plastic packaging have the – as yet underutilized – potential for countless new beginnings. All it takes is a recycling system that can recover post-consumer materials at the end of each use cycle and make them ready for the next one.

    The math is quite simple: The more different materials a recycling line can handle, the more profitable it will be for the company operating it. On top of that, every individual piece of packaging that is kept in the loop helps improve our (and by that we mean society’s) overall environmental performance and climate impact. Precisely for this reason, Krones has been gradually expanding the scope of its MetaPure technology. When it was launched twelve years ago, MetaPure was focused exclusively on recycling PET bottles. Now, it handles the entire range of the plastics most commonly used for packaging.

    Pilot plant in production since early 2021

    The first client to utilize this full range of possibilities is a recycling company in western Germany. With a MetaPure line that was commissioned in early 2021, the company processes not only PET but also polyolefin and polystyrene. This versatility is made possible by the heart of the line: the MetaPure W washing module. “We’ve invested a great deal in development work over the past several years, in terms of both washing technology and processes,” explains Thore Lucks, head of Krones Recycling Solutions. “That investment is paying off. The current system produces high-quality recycled material from a wide range of plastics applications – whether beverage containers, plastic trays, yoghurt tubs, or shampoo bottles.”

    The development team is especially proud of the fact that the MetaPure is able to process extremely thin-walled products such as PET plastic trays. “These materials have a low intrinsic viscosity (IV). That means they’re brittle and degrade quickly when subjected to mechanical stress,” says Krones recycling technology specialist Timm Kirchhoff. “After several test series in our lab, our washing process is now so gentle that it’s able to keep even ‘problem cases’ like those in the loop.” 

    The various types of plastic all follow the same path through the recycling line. No change-over routine is required for switching from one material to the next. Instead, the line is simply cleaned and a new recipe selected at the control panel. This flexibility allows the operator to respond directly to the current supply of materials – even on a same-day basis. 

    But Krones’ developers are still far from satisfied. They’re already working to expand MetaPure's repertoire to include even more packaging types. “Next up are films since there is so much potential in terms of sheer volume,” says Thore Lucks. “We’re in the middle of testing right now. If the trials continue to be as successful as they have been to date, we’ll soon be able to deliver this new technology to our customers.” 

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