Plastics recycling is currently evolving very rapidly from a niche to a trend. This is driven by the legislative targets for plastics recycling that the European Union and many countries around the world have enacted, as well as by the European Green Deal, which aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent and in which the circular economy plays a very central role.
Focus on the highest possible recycled pellet quality
However, there is not just one recycling solution for all types of plastic waste, but rather different solutions depending on the type of plastic, the product and the application intended for the recycled plastic. "It makes a difference whether clean production waste is recycled and returned to the production process or whether printed and contaminated packaging materials collected in yellow bags are recycled and used to make food packaging again," explains Markus Huber-Lindinger, Managing Director EREMA Recycling Maschinen und Anlagen GesmbH. While some plastics processing loops, such as for PET bottles, have already been closed, many other plastic waste streams still require a great deal of R&D in cooperation with everyone involved in the value chain to produce recycled pellets that meet the very highest standards for the production of new products. More space will be available for this in the new centre.
R&D is decentralised at EREMA. In recent years, approximately 5 percent of turnover was reinvested annually in research and development. Employees from different departments handle process engineering challenges, innovations in mechanical engineering and automation technology, and special technologies with a view to further improving the quality of recycled pellets. They also focus on new recycling technologies for waste plastic materials for which there is currently no satisfactory circular economy solution. The decisive factor here is also to exploit the potential of digitalisation. By collecting and analysing machine data, not only can recycling processes and product quality be further improved, but we can also develop our digital service offering for our customers. Such offerings include customer-specific information tools that feature plant and process data, predictive maintenance and online support as well as commissioning via remote access.
For material tests, which are necessary for research and development work, an expanded machine park will be available following completion of the new R&D centre. Here, the recycling process can be evaluated end-to-end, including upstream and downstream processes such as shredding and further processing of the recycled pellets. The material tests are supported by detailed analysis in the professionally equipped laboratory, which will be relocated to the new premises and upgraded where necessary with the very latest lab equipment.
"With the new R&D centre, we are laying the foundation for further important plastics recycling milestones from EREMA. We have always been characterised by our innovative strength, as proven by 115 patent families with more than 1,000 patents. And we will continue to lead with our pioneering role," says Markus Huber-Lindinger. Regarding cooperation within the industry, EREMA benefits from the plastics know-how in science and industry that is so focused in Upper Austria, as well as from the support provided by the Upper Austrian state as part of the Upper Austrian business and research strategy "#upperVISION2030".
Markus Achleitner, Upper Austria's Minister for Economic Affairs: "With its innovative companies and research centres, Upper Austria has a focus on plastics competence. Where else but here can we provide proof of sustainable solutions. In the case of plastics in particular, we are not only creating quality of life at home, but also an export opportunity for our companies with innovative technologies. EREMA is one of the technology leaders in the plastics industry whose products are successful on the world market. The basis for this success is created with intensive research and development work. I therefore congratulate the company on taking this step to build a new R&D centre. This will strengthen Upper Austria as a business and research location and create attractive jobs."
Peneder, the construction company carrying out the work, is pleased to have worked with EREMA over the years: "We have been supporting EREMA with their construction projects since 2006. Back then, a master plan was drawn up for possible expansion scenarios at the Ansfelden site that still applies. The construction of the new R&D centre closes the last gap at the site in Ansfelden," says Alfred Hollerweger, head of industrial and commercial construction at Peneder.
"The necessity of investing in the circular economy and in plastics recycling is clear from the current crises, which will be with us for some time to come," adds Manfred Hackl. "Both corona and the consequences of the invasion of Ukraine have shown us the reality of the EU's dependence on resources. Our mission "Another life for plastic. Because we care." is more relevant today than ever before."