Circular Economy is a huge chance
Dr. Stefan Engleder: Circular Economy is a huge chance. Disused plastic products are no longer waste but recyclable fractions. Plastic waste becomes a very desirable resource. I always think of a picture that shows a man in Asia on a tricycle. On the loading area, empty PET bottles, jerrycans and other plastic packaging are piling up to a gigantic extent. With this putative waste, the man earns his living. He has realised long ago that it is worth real money.
And what does it mean for an injection moulding machine manufacturer like Engel?
Dr. Engleder: We look at the topic of circular economy from different perspectives. As a system solver, we develop complex production processes and new processing technologies together with our customers and partners. More and more frequently, processes are included that close the recovered substance cycle. An example is composite lightweight construction, which not only contributes to preserving resources. By increasingly using thermoplastics, it is in fact our aim to enable the recycling of composite components and to make it easier, respectively. We make a further important contribution by increasing the intelligence of our injection moulding machines. New assistance systems make it possible to recognise deviations in the raw material automatically and to counterbalance them. This paves the way for a more comprehensive use of recyclates in the injection moulding process.
Can you imagine to primarily use recyclates in the production of injection moulded parts one day?
Dr. Engleder: The awareness that disused plastic products are not waste but resources is overall increasing. Some big, well-known players of our industry have been using recyclates consistently for a long time, and are a role model for other companies with their success.
However, there are a few challenges still to be solved until recyclates could perhaps really become used by the majority. Self-optimising injection moulding machines are only one component in this process. Also for material recycling, new, even more efficient procedures are needed. A further aspect is that of supply security. Those who rely on recyclates must make sure that they are available to them long-term and to a calculable price.
Recyclates are cheaper than virgin material. Is that not enough calculation security?
Dr. Engleder: Generally, the proportion of recyclate always also depends on the price of the virgin material and the oil price. The more expensive the new material, the more recyclate is used. In the same way, rising oil prices make recycled materials more attractive, which in turn may lead to a shortage and price increases. Another topic is in-house recycling, which many of our customers do in an exemplary fashion. Most of the companies already shred the spruces and directly process them to a large extent.