This is how living sustainability looks like
The RKW Group is true to its word and is investing heavily to make the production of films more sustainable, step by step.
"As the RKW Group, we are committed to our responsibility for resource efficiency and sustainability," says Dr. Alexander Wansel, Executive Vice President Operations. This is accompanied by very specific measures such as the expansion of recycling processing, the use of more energy-efficient machines or the modernization of cooling technology.
In 2020, RKW invested more than three million euros in eleven sites with the aim of improving its own climate footprint.
Example of recycling technology: RKW is actively involved in the expansion of a functioning recycling economy for plastics. The focus here is on recycling capacities and the reduction of production waste. Each RKW site is equipped with its own recycling facilities, which allow internal production waste such as edge trimmings to be converted back into high-quality granules.
If their use is not possible in the same product and at the same site due to quality requirements, the RKW Group offers various options to reprocess the recycled material through its broad product portfolio and internal network. However, in order to close important loops in the film industry, the processing of external post-consumer and post-industrial film waste in particular is increasingly becoming the focus of new investments.
In 2020, a total of three million euros was invested in modern recycling equipment at various sites. In addition to the acquisition of new recycling lines to increase capacities, existing facilities were supplemented, for example, with new elements for shredding and cleaning film waste in order to be able to recycle more material, some of which is heavily contaminated, and to optimize the quality of the resulting recyclates.
Investments in modern blown film extrusion lines as well as quality monitoring systems also play a significant role in increasing the use of regranulates and innovative raw materials, and in achieving the thinnest possible but highly efficient film solutions. The use of multilayer extruders also allows recycled material to be increasingly used in films with high quality requirements.
This technology enables innovative combinations of newly developed raw materials and formulations, leading among other things to further thickness reductions or improved recyclability. With the help of automatic line controls and online quality monitoring, such as profile thickness control or 100 percent pressure monitoring, machine operators can react to process and quality deviations in the shortest possible time, avoid production waste and thus save valuable raw materials.
In order to reduce the CO2 emissions of our production processes, the RKW Group provides an additional investment volume for special energy projects every year. All sites have the opportunity to submit project ideas for increasing the energy efficiency of plants and infrastructure, which are then evaluated by a team of experts within a detailed process.
Example of cooling technology: At the Echte production site, RKW invested in new cooling systems for extrusion and regeneration equipment as well as for printing and converting machines. Compared to the old system, the new one drastically reduces energy consumption and offers higher and more consistent performance. At the same time, maintenance requirements and noise levels in the production halls are reduced.
In Nordhorn, the cold water supply system was fundamentally renewed, which went beyond simply replacing the equipment by also specifically recording requirements and designing the new system accordingly. Annual energy consumption here fell by a good 70 percent.
Example of lighting technology: The use of LED lighting can also reduce energy requirements in production. RKW is investing in this at its German sites in Michaelstadt, Echte and Wasserburg, as well as at its plants in Saultain and Chamboeuf (France), Hoogstraten (Belgium) and Helsingborg (Sweden). In addition, further measures are planned in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) and Guangzhou (China).
In total, 13 of the company's sites launched 35 projects, most of which are now being implemented. This procedure has a long tradition at RKW: In previous years, efficiency potential has already been identified in this way and raised through suitable measures. In 2021, further important projects will be added - the largest single item is the use of particularly energy-saving, speed-controlled motors at the Michelstadt site.
The production of films is an energy-intensive process, especially as the plants work around the clock and throughout the year. "This means that our annual measures to increase energy efficiency are not only an important contribution to reducing costs and thus securing the future of the sites - they are also, above all, an important lever for continuously improving our environmental performance," says Dr. Wansel.
In addition to increasing energy efficiency, the RKW Group switched its German sites to green electricity last year. This was associated with a reduction in CO2 emissions of a further 80,000 metric tons. In terms of electricity consumption at the plants, this corresponds to a decrease of around 80 percent.