Plastic is a sought-after commodity in our day-to-day lives. It’s a material that is valued for its durability and functionality, and its characteristics mean that plastic can be made into a vast range of shapes and designs. Products and components made of plastic are extremely lightweight and strong, and the material’s capacity to be processed in a sustainable, economical, and energy-efficient way also makes it special. However, this is causing the amount of raw materials that we consume and waste that we produce to increase. We therefore need to ask ourselves two questions: first, how we as humans can live more sustainably in the future, and second, how we as companies can use new approaches to recover raw materials from waste, develop sustainable materials, and reduce our consumption of resources in the process.
The topic of sustainability is particularly relevant to us as plastics experts – even though we at Greiner Assistec produce particularly durable, technical components rather than single-use products. That’s why we believe it is important to keep track of sustainability considerations throughout the entire supply chain. At Greiner Assistec, these aspects include resource-friendly production, preventing production residues and rejects, an efficient process monitoring system, utilizing cutting-edge machines, and – wherever possible – incorporating recycled materials. Being there to support our customers is important to us: We work together to identify the best solution for the particular project, regardless of the material, its source, or the processing steps.
Blue Plan encompasses all parts of our company around the world. It focuses on three major priority areas, which we have identified as key issues that will shape Greiner’s future: climate change, creating a circular business, and people. Greiner AG published its first sustainability report in 2019. For further information on Greiner’s key topics and goals in the area of sustainability, please visit sustainability.greiner.com.
At the cutting edge of technology
Ultimate quality for our customers and sustainable production go hand in hand at Greiner Assistec. At all our locations, we therefore make use of advanced machinery that corresponds to the latest state of the art. This enables us to also take environmental factors into account in countries where investments in sustainable processes aren’t commonplace.
Use of recycled materials
Greiner Assistec has been focusing on using alternatives to raw materials for many years. Our resulting expertise lets us actively offer our customers innovative, sustainable materials – whenever we believe that the project and its requirements would allow this.
Our goal is to avoid production waste, but any production residue that nonetheless occurs is regranulated and returned to the production cycle. Our Injection molding process is an ideal example: Whenever flash occurs, it is immediately ground down and reintegrated in the cycle. Informing our customers of the option to use recycled materials in their products is vital to us. We already use 100% recycled materials for our own product, the plastic pallet.
Since 2016, Greiner Assistec and Greiner Packaging have also been placing an intensive focus on the use of bioplastics and renewable raw materials in the course of a development project. Tests with materials from sustainable sources of raw materials are conducted systematically under the project name “Sustainable Materials,” which includes experiments in both the food and non-food areas. In terms of agro-based plastics, we place a clear focus on third-generation sources of raw materials – that is, on organic byproducts as well as cellulose, wood, and biomass. In the course of this project, we are collaborating with the Institute for Polymer Extrusion and Compounding (IPEC) at Johannes Kepler University Linz and the Transfercenter für Kunststofftechnik (Transfer Center for Plastics Technology, TCKT) in Wels, Austria. The project is being funded by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency.
The results of our studies thus far have demonstrated that agro-based, compostable plastics require processing that is adapted. Proven processes can therefore only be utilized to a certain extent. We at Greiner Assistec are focusing primarily on recycled materials and on agro-based, non-degradable plastics, which we believe offer great potential and support the concept of sustainability. But our customers always receive the advice they need, regardless of which material their query relates to.
Sustainability is not a fad. The concept’s roots go as far back as the 18th century. “Only cut as much wood as can regrow.”
Chief mining administrator Hans-Karl von Carlowitz used these words to formulate the principle of sustainability for the first time in Germany in 1713. Around the world, there is a common understanding that sustainable behavior is the only way to ensure our survival over the long term.
The circular economy is the counterpart to the linear economy, which is also known as the disposable economy. Proper recycling and the production of secondary raw materials are the basis of a functioning circular economy. Further aspects include conserving resources and minimizing waste and emissions. Nature serves as a model for the circular economy, as all substances automatically pass through a cycle in the natural world. In a linear system, the raw materials are lost after they are used. For this reason, we are strongly committed to implementing the concept of the circular economy on a global basis.
Plastic is better than its reputation suggests. Due to its low weight, it offers advantages during transport and enables efficient production thanks to its diverse design options.
Plastic opens up countless opportunities. It can be used and processed in versatile ways in every area of life.
Here’s just a few examples: Using plastic packaging reduces the weight of a truck’s load in comparison with other packaging materials. This reduction in weight thus helps to save fuel when plastic is used in cars or airplanes. Packaging also increases the shelf life of food and can therefore contribute to reducing food waste. When looking at the life cycle assessment of various materials, plastic performs far better than other materials due to their increased energy requirements – provided, of course, that the material is tossed in the trash container and properly disposed of after use instead of ending up in the environment. In other words, the problem is not the material but primarily the careless way in which it is handled. In many countries there is no functioning waste management system or recycling solutions apart from landfills. This lack of infrastructure means that sooner or later plastic ends up on the street, in nature, and often in rivers and seas as well.