The Starlinger recycling technology Open House on June 18 and 19, 2012 was bustling with more than 200 visitors from 31 countries and all five continents. They all came to celebrate 25 years of Starlinger recycling equipment and to look at the latest technology and industry developments.
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The Open House was held on the Starlinger factory premises in Weissenbach/Triesting, Lower Austria, and offered the opportunity to view the entire machine range of Starlinger recycling technology in operation. The guest list comprised companies along the entire value chain of the plastics recycling industry: recyclers, producers of film, fiber, woven and nonwoven fabric, strapping, preforms and other injection moulding parts; original equipment manufacturers and auxiliaries suppliers; brand-owners and bottlers; consultants, trading companies, banks and insurance, etc., and boasted renowned names such as Coca-Cola Europe, bpi or sorema. Rounded off with a dinner reception on a boat restaurant on the Danube Canal in Vienna on the evening of Monday, June 18, the event provided an excellent platform for discussing future trends in plastics recycling and offered networking opportunities for all players involved in the industry.
PET B2B recycling: Reducing the carbon footprint
One of the Open House highlights was a recoSTAR PET 330 iV+ – currently the biggest PET bottle-to-bottle recycling line of its kind in the world – with an output of 2,900 kg/h (or 3,600 kg/h as high capacity version). It has been sold to Visy Industries Australia Pty Ltd, one of the largest Australasian recycling companies based in Melbourne. PET bottle-to-bottle recycling is experiencing a worldwide upswing at the moment. Recycled content in consumer bottles is part of the sustainable packaging strategy many companies are pursuing nowadays. Reducing the carbon footprint means, on one side, to use sustainable input materials, and on the other side, to reduce the weight of the
packaging medium – so-called lightweighting. “One of the most important criteria in food grade PET recycling is that the process must be able to handle changing input materials without compromising the quality of the output, i.e. the material characteristics. This means not only the required food grade specifications for PET must be met, but also the material characteristics – which play an essential role in lightweighting – must be maintained because the regranulate is used to replace virgin material. This is only possible with the right process”, says Klaus Peter Stadler, Director of Environment & Water Resources of Coca-Cola Europe. Continuum Recycling, the joint venture company formed between Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) and British plastics recycler ECO Plastics, uses a Starlinger recoSTAR PET 330 iV+ HC recycling line to produce the rPET that CCE is using in its PET packaging in Great Britain as a part of its sustainability program.
A relatively new market for bottle-to-bottle recycling is Japan. According to Masaaki Utsumi, President of Utsumi Recycle Systems Inc., there is not very much domestic demand for recycled PET at present; thus, although Japan has a very good collection system and about 90 % of the consumer PET bottles are collected, the major part of them is exported. “However, we see good opportunities for B2B recycling due to the sustainable packaging strategies many brandowners are pursuing. With the new Government Guideline for recycled plastics, which is very close to the US FDA guideline and which came into force in April this year, we now have a standard for the recyclers in Japan. And with the right process I think we will have good chances with the brandowners,” says Utsumi.
Focus on cleaning capacity, throughput and versatility
The second exhibition highlight, a recoSTAR universal 165 VAC, will be used in a completely different application. Designed for recycling film, filament, fiber and nonwoven post-industrial and production scrap, it has a throughput of up to 1,300 kg/h. It has been purchased by becher plastics, industry leaders in the recycling of post-industrial plastics based in Wisconsin, US, and was processing diaper production scrap (a mixture of PP spunbond nonwoven and HDPE film) during the Open House. Ben Becher, President of becher plastics, sees an increase of multi-layered films – especially combinations of HDPE and LDPE – available for recycling on the US market. These materials are problematic because they cannot be recycled together. Also the recycling of highly printed films is becoming an increasingly relevant issue. For him, one of the most important aspects in plastics recycling is the cleaning capacity. “The reasons why I bought this line were its ease of use, the excellent throughput, and we were also very interested at the filter at the end, a continuous rotation filter. It will allow us to process materials with more contamination – we will be able to remove the contaminants at a low cost and get a product that is high quality. The machine will actually replace the two existing lines we are using at the moment. It will cut down my production costs to one
third of what they are now – we are really excited about that!”
Recycling lines since 1987, custom-made for all applications
“Besides the usual challenges in recycling we specialise on lines for materials that cannot be processed on conventional recycling lines. If a customer brings a special material and asks “Look, is there any way we can recycle this?” we go and find a way”, explains Elfriede Hell, General Manager of Starlinger recycling technology. Test runs with customer materials as well as research for the development of new technologies are carried out in the Starlinger Technical Center. It is equipped with one recycling line of each type which can be adapted to individual material requirements and output specifications to suit a broad range of applications.
As the company background of Starlinger lies in woven packaging machinery, the first recycling line made by Starlinger and delivered in 1987 was designed for recycling the polypropylene tape production scrap of bag producers – a perfect example of vertical integration. Gradually, and recognizing the demands of the market, new machines were developed for recycling other materials. By today, the machine portfolio of Starlinger recycling technology covers almost every size and application: four different types of lines can process a wide range of thermoplasts in all input forms. The flexible and modular machine concept comprises six output ranges from 100 kg/h to up to 3,600
kg/h, six different filtration systems, and five pelletizing systems; the SSP (solid state polycondensation) reactors for PET refinement are also supplied in five sizes. By combining the different modules the lines can be used for a broad range of applications – from bottle flakes, film, woven bags, fiber and nonwovens to very special applications.
Angelika Huemer, Managing Partner of Starlinger & Co. GmbH, says, ”Starlinger recycling technology has become an important pillar of Starlinger. I am convinced that this not only makes sense from the economic point of view, but can also be seen as our contribution to a sustainable usage of our resources”.