KRONES recycles PET

In late autumn 2016, 21 Russian executives completed manager training tailored to the needs of the food industry in North Germany. Among the most interesting experiences for the group was a visit to Krones AG.

The visit to Krones AG based in Flensburg, the northernmost production location in Germany, provided a great deal of new impetus on the subject of sustainability as one of the only plant manufacturers in the beverages industry to also be active in the field of recycling. Managing Director Kai Sievertsen and Head of Product Treatment Bernd Esmarch, who is responsible for development of the PET recycling process, welcomed the visitors with the typical North German greeting of “Moin-moin”, adding that guests are always very welcome at the site. “Right up here, at our northernmost site in Germany, we develop and produce the company’s biggest machines together with a team of 450 people. The technical centre where the PET recycling technology is developed and tested is also based in Flensburg. Us northerners can be very innovative, too,” added Sievertsen with a grin. Following a brief introduction, the group headed for the PET recycling plant. Overwhelmed by the technology, the Russian visitors had no end of questions. Larissa Bashkina and Evgeny Vasilienko, both of whom work in the beverages industry, were fascinated by the degree of automation. They were particularly interested in closure systems, filling products, the bottle washing procedure, energy consumption and time requirements.

Esmarch explained how Krones will use its compact recycling plant concept to achieve its goal of significantly reducing the processing costs compared to the standard technology while maintaining the same extremely high PET recycling quality. The process was then demonstrated on a scale 1 to 10 in the company’s pilot plant. The Russian visitors learned that the compact bottle-to-bottle system is also of interest to bottling plants and plastic packaging companies in addition to straightforward recycling businesses. Because the costs associated with high-quality PET recycling are significantly lower than those to acquire new PET products, the bottle production costs can be reduced accordingly. Investments in a new production plant must pay off in the long term. Using the example of the Bosman Brewery, the visitors learned that not only technical perfection of the plant but also specialist support throughout the entire service life is decisive. A project was presented here during which the Krones Lifecycle Service took a cost-conscious approach and made efficient use of resources to upsize production output at the brewery by relocating existing machinery.

The question of “Why have we not achieved this yet and why are we still throwing so much away?” arose time and time again in the discussion that followed. All participants agreed that public awareness must be enhanced for a rethink to take place. The subjects of corporate management and compliance at Krones AG were then considered in lively discussions. Sievertsen remarked that companies today face a great many global economic challenges: “As the market leader, we wish to proactively take charge, turn challenges into opportunities and set new standards. Lawful, ethical and accountable action is an important and indispensable part of our corporate and social responsibility.” The visit to a company whose sustainability is very clearly tangible concluded with these words.

By Marlies Riemer-Lange Wirtschaftsakademie Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel