Preserving growth and prosperity, preserving the earth for future generations - this is what sustainability is all about. The term comes from forestry and means that only as many trees may be felled in a forest area as will grow back in the same period.
For the plastics industry, this means only processing as much plastic as can be collected and recycled at the end of the value chain. The entire industry is working on this, and the first successful steps toward this goal are already behind us.
But why stick with plastics at all? There are many good reasons for this, most of which are ignored in the public debate:
Plastic is climate-friendly
In contrast to paper and cardboard, the production of plastic emits significantly less CO2. Neither a lot of water nor heat - which is mostly obtained from fossil fuels - is needed for the production process.
Plastics stand for safety
From cucumbers to 1000-euro laptops - plastics protect valuable products from damage or extend their shelf life. Sure, vegetables don't have to be wrapped in foil - but then they spoil faster, are thrown away in larger quantities and have to be brought back to the supermarket shelf. The bottom line is a significantly worse environmental balance.
Safety also means a better quality of life. Hygiene products, for example, would be inconceivable without plastics - from baby diapers and sanitary towels to incontinence products. It's all about reliability and the good feeling of being able to take part in daily life without restrictions.
Plastic is easier to recycle
Recycling always works particularly well when the material to be processed consists of only one raw material - as is the case with many plastic products. Then, for example, packaging made of polyethylene can be reprocessed comparatively easily and returned to the materials cycle. The situation is quite different with many paper and cardboard packaging: These often consist of composite materials that first have to be separated at great expense before recycling.
On the way to a circular economy
For years, the RKW Group has been committed to the further expansion of the circular economy in trade organizations and industry associations. Specifically, we are working on projects to further increase the proportion of recyclate in our products while minimizing the use of raw materials.
No easy task, and there is still a lot to do. When it comes to plastics recycling, the devil is in the proverbial details - the spectrum ranges from "decolorizing" printed used packaging to hygiene aspects in reprocessing and the introduction of take-back systems.