What does recycling mean?
According to the definition of the European Parliament, recycling means any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances, whether for the original or other purposes.1 The first step in the recycling process takes place at consumers’ homes. Consumers separate their packaging and bring it to the collection point. From there, the materials are brought to pre-sorting facilities, where the collected materials are separated and sorted. The sorted materials are then transported to recycling plants where, in the case of plastic bottles, they are again sorted, crushed, cleaned and sorted on flake basis once more. Depending on the end application, such as bottles, sheets, blisters, fibres, etc., flakes or regranulate (rPET) can be used for further processing.
Why should we recycle?
Recycling contributes to a circular economy by keeping valuable materials in a sustainable resource loop, which furthermore decreases the volume of waste in landfills and prevents littering. A properly established waste management system is crucial to ensure a closed resource loop. This means that the resources are reused or recycled instead of wasted. Referring to the phenomenon of global warming, rPET can save up to 90% of CO2 emissions compared to virgin material. Additionally, it saves fossil resources such as oil or gas. The importance of recycling is underlined by the policies and legislations of high authorities in several states. The EU, for example, drafted a set of recycling targets that includes:
- Increasing the recycling rate of all plastic waste to more than 50% by 2030
- Making all plastic packaging 100% recyclable by 2030
What is ALPLA’s stance on recycling?
At ALPLA, we emphasise the importance of a sustainable and environmentally friendly use of resources, which is deeply rooted in the company’s core strategy. Sustainability is a topic that receives increased attention. CEO Günther Lehner confirms this: ‘We have noticed greater demand for products made with recycled materials. In recent years, we have managed to move away from discussions that focus purely on cost, establishing sustainability as a core value.’ Recycling is a considerable part of a sustainable business – whether that is by supporting the recycling process or using recycled material in products. The increased awareness among the public, however, is not the main reason that drives our commitment: ‘We believe that recycling is appropriate and important not just for legal reasons. It is an economic sector of great significance for the environment and the future of our industry,’ explains Mr Lehner.
How does ALPLA drive recycling?
ALPLA operates its own recycling plants in three locations spread across the globe. In Wöllersdorf (AT), the fully owned subsidiary PET Recycling Team GmbH (PRT) produces 31,000 tonnes of rPET annually. Since 2012, the PRT site in Radmonsko (PL) produces 15,000 tonnes of rPET every year and contributes to our overall recycling footprint. At the IMER plant in Toluca (MEX), ALPLA runs a joint-venture plant with the Coca-Cola Company and Coca-Cola FEMSA, where they produce food-grade flake. All three sites combined produce approximately 65,000 tonnes of food-grade rPET by recycling post-consumer packaging waste material. This material is used to produce new bottles – a process called bottle-to-bottle recycling. We are constantly working on increasing awareness of this topic by attending events where we visualize the recycling process to make it a more tangible process to end-consumers. We also focus on delivering the benefits of recycling in order to encourage more people to get involved.
Recycling means sustainability and thus a better future for our planet.
1) Official Journal of the European Union, 312/3, 22.11.2008