Recycling facility at the RKW plant in Hoogstraten, Belgium
In 2018, each EU citizen produced an average of 502 kg of household waste. And this trend is continuing. Year after year, we consume more and more natural resources while the world's population continues to grow. This makes it all the more important to use materials as often as possible before they are, for example, incinerated, landfilled or, in the worst case, simply disposed of in the environment.
Recycling makes waste usable again and returns it to the economic cycle – in the best case several times and reused as a high-quality product. Downcycling, i.e. reuse in low-value products, should be avoided if possible.
RKW is committed to further driving the circular economy for plastics. In concrete terms, this means that we are increasingly focusing on the use of recycled materials, placing the development of easily recyclable products at the center of our R&D activities and – more importantly – seeing the conservation of natural resources as an essential part of our corporate policy. After all, recycling and a circular economy for plastic products have many benefits. It reduces the carbon footprint of raw materials, prevents plastic waste from polluting the environment, increases supply efficiency and reduces material costs.
Recycling in production
Our commitment begins with our production. In the RKW Group, production scrap is considered a valuable resource that we use to manufacture new products. We use scrap either directly within the production process, between different processes or even across sites. Each RKW site has its own recycling facilities in which scrap is processed into high-quality regranulate. Offline and inline processes are used in equal measure.
Further synergy effects are leveraged through cross-site cooperation: If the scrap produced on site cannot be used in production for technical or regulatory reasons, the regranulate is available to other plants within the RKW Group as a valuable raw material.
Recyclates from post-consumer or post-industrial sources
In addition, we have been using recyclates from external post-industrial or post-consumer sources in various products for years. The RKW Group makes its know-how in the area of recyclates and recycling available to its customers. Together with them, we develop ways to increase the proportion of recycled raw materials. The expected optical and technical properties of the product are matched with the customer's requirements. The end result is a solution that reconciles the highest possible proportion of recycled material with the best possible film quality. For example, our multipack films use up to 100 percent recycled material, yet they are easy to further process and print.
Savings of 30,000 tons of CO2
Agricultural films are also well suited to the use of recyclates. The bottom line is that this creates a recyclable material cycle that not only reduces waste, but also conserves resources and ultimately reduces emissions of additional CO2. With this goal in mind, RKW has been involved for years in the ERDE initiative for the collection and recycling of used agricultural films.
In 2020 alone, ERDE members returned approximately 26,500 tons of agricultural film to the recyclable cycle, the equivalent of saving 30,000 tons of CO2 – or the amount that 2.2 million trees sequester each year.
Design for Recycling
For a closed material cycle, it is essential that our products can be reused as completely as possible. Under the keyword "Design for Recycling," our development teams are continuously working on new or improved formulations that enable easy sorting and recycling from the outset. Multilayer films with incompatible and inseparable materials are avoided wherever possible.
The recycling of plastics is therefore a challenge for the entire value chain. In order to obtain high-quality recyclates, which in turn are to be used in high-quality products, material flows must be as pure as possible, which in turn requires functioning collection, sorting and processing systems. In close contact with our suppliers, customers, partner associations and recycling companies, RKW regularly invests in efficient and innovative technologies and materials to support the development of a functioning recycling economy for plastics.