Magazine, Sustainability

Plastic: More than a single-use material

29/08/2019 | 4 min read

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. A further advantage is the fact that products and parts made of plastic are lightweight and strong, and the material’s capacity to be processed in a sustainable, economical, and energy-efficient way also makes it special. However, the amounts of waste that are produced and raw materials that are consumed are increasing. Given this situation, Greiner Assistec began many years ago to address the question of how the company can use new approaches to recover raw materials from waste, develop sustainable materials, and reduce its consumption of resources in the process.

Sustainability considerations for durable  technical components

The topic of sustainability is particularly relevant to Greiner Assistec – even though the plastics experts produce particularly durable technical components rather than single-use products. That’s why the company believes it is important to keep track of sustainability considerations throughout its entire supply chain. At Greiner Assistec, these factors include resource-friendly production, preventing production residues and rejects, operating an efficient process monitoring system, avoiding waste, utilizing cutting-edge machines, and – wherever possible – incorporating recycled materials.

Being there to offer our customers advice 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.

Karl Berger, Vice President of Greiner Assistec

Supporting the Plastics 4 Life strategy

Like all the divisions of Greiner AG, Greiner Assistec is working to implement the shared Plastics 4 Life strategy. This strategy establishes how the family business deals with the social and environmental impacts of its activities. To this end, Greiner Assistec has been taking steps for several years to reduce packaging materials to the greatest possible extent, utilize cardboard packaging multiple times, and make use of reusable containers. Waste is avoided wherever possible, and any scrap created is recycled. “In our view, this is not just sustainable – it also makes perfect sense,” says Berger. 

At the cutting edge 

Ultimate quality for its customers and sustainable production go hand in hand at Greiner Assistec. At all its locations, the company therefore makes use of advanced machinery that corresponds to the latest state of the art. This also makes it possible to take environmental factors into account in countries where investments in sustainable processes aren’t commonplace. In addition, Greiner Assistec has been focusing on using alternative raw materials for many years. “Working on this basis, we have already built up extensive expertise. This means we are in a position to actively offer our customers innovative, sustainable materials – whenever we believe that the project and its requirements would allow this,” says Berger. The goal is to avoid production waste, but any production residue that nonetheless occurs is regranulated and returned to the production cycle. Greiner Assistec’s injection molding process is an ideal example: Whenever flash occurs, it is immediately ground down and reintegrated into the cycle. Customers are also always given the option to use recycled materials in their products – in its own product, the plastic pallet, Greiner Assistec already uses 100% recycled materials.

Use of renewable raw materials

Since 2016, Greiner Assistec has also been teaming up with Greiner Packaging in a development project that places an intensive focus on the use of bioplastics and renewable raw materials. Tests with materials from sustainable sources are being conducted systematically under the project name “Sustainable Materials.” The company is 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, on this project, which includes experiments in the food sector and the nonfood sector. In terms of agro-based plastics, there is a clear focus on second-generation sources of raw materials – that is, on organic byproducts as well as cellulose, wood, and biomass. The results of the studies have demonstrated that agro-based plastics require adapted processing. Proven processes can therefore only be utilized to a certain extent. Greiner Assistec is focusing primarily on recycled materials and on agro-based, non-degradable plastics, which the experts believe offer great potential and support the concept of sustai-nability. But customers always receive the advice they need, regardless of which material their query relates to.

Being able to also provide our customers with comprehensive advice on sustainability is important to us. Together, we define goals – such as reducing the proportion of plastics based on crude oil – and build on this foundation to develop a solution for the future. In this way, we offer true added value.

Karl Berger, Vice President of Greiner Assistec

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