Plastics production - More sustainable through circular economy
Finite resources and the climate crisis encourage a rethinking in many industries. Actions move away from low-cost disposable products and toward near-sustainable options made from secondary raw materials. Recycling and the circular economy are not a trend but long-term concepts for conserving resources that turn entire process chains upside down.
This rethinking also applies to the plastics activities of thyssenkrupp Materials Services - combined in the Plastics operating unit. Guido Grossenbacher, Managing Director of Notz Plastics AG and initiator of the Green Concept project, explains how plastics production is becoming more sustainable through a circular economy.
Circular economy and recycling - the subtle difference
But what does that mean? The circular economy is concerned with closing the materials cycle effectively. Primary raw materials are processed into high-quality secondary raw materials after they have been used and can thus be used again in further production processes. Unlike recycling, the circular economy is not just about a material being reprocessed repeatedly, but also about the efficient use of process heat or waste products. Guido Grossenbacher explains the difference as follows: "We know mechanical and chemical recycling - the circular economy starts after recycling and consequently goes one step further until a new product is created from the secondary raw material."
Opportunities of the circular economy
For Guido Grossenbacher, it is clear that companies and end consumers bear responsibility for the environment. However, creating a common understanding of sustainability and responsible use of resources is not always easy. "We had to go a few rounds to build a common understanding. But it pays to take responsibility and invest in the future and the environment." Currently, about 70% of the materials brought to market by the Operating Units Plastics are disposed of by end users and cannot be integrated into a circular economy. However, manufactures lack these quantities to produce new products from secondary raw materials.
This is precisely where the "Green Concept" project comes in: The aim is to collect plastic residues to process and granulate them to produce new material. In addition to the recycling service, they also offer training courses for their customers on recycling options.
Grossenbacher is certain: "Future regulations, such as the CO2 tax, will increase the pressure to use recycling consciously. The project also gives the company a head start on the competition by anticipating legal regulations and setting the course for production with secondary raw materials today. Should new legislation come into force, the ecological and economic parameters could change drastically for the better, according to Grossenbacher.
Circular economy – more than just a trend
The project of Guido Grossenbacher and his colleagues’ intents to make a difference in the long term. The company wants to make plastics made from secondary raw materials attractive to an ever-increasing number of customers. In addition, Grossenbacher also wants to make consumers responsible for recycling: "Products made from secondary raw materials are generally neither more attractive nor cheaper. As long as consumers prefer products made from primary raw materials and do not recognize the benefits of resource-conserving production, we are still a long way from a functioning circular economy."
For his team and him, however, it is clear that the circular economy will become a mandatory program for them so that they can help shape the green transformation with "green products" made from secondary raw materials.