The recycling industry is bubbling with innovations. The recycling group REMONDIS is at the forefront of maximising the recycling of materials and products and has adopted the concept of "design for recycling". REMONDIS will be there to talk about recycling at the Sustainability Arena during Elmia Subcontractor.
Over the last fifty years, the development of new materials has been rapid to meet the need for materials with unique properties and applications. Mixing different materials has created products with impressive performance, but it has also contributed to challenges when it comes to recycling. One example is many plastic products where different materials are added to give the plastic unique properties such as UV resistance, flexibility, stiffness or combinations of all of them. This means that when the products are discarded, it is incredibly difficult to recycle them.
- Collaboration right from the design phase of products and our access to high-tech tools opens up the possibility of circular flows - even for products that were previously difficult to recycle. Progress has been made through dialogue with manufacturers," says Kristoffer Nordenstaaf, Head of Communications and Sustainability at REMONDIS Sweden.
Today, REMONDIS has a facility in Germany that specialises in sorting out metals and other components from recycled vehicles. As well as sorting out the components, the facility also measures the metal composition continuously which means that the recipient of the recycled material knows exactly what they have when making new material. This makes it possible to produce new vehicle sheet metal from the recycled material, which was basically impossible before. Then, the material went to other simpler uses because it often contained impurities that affect quality.
Circular flows and the future of AI
In the metal industry, a major challenge has been that metals tend to be downgraded after each use, making it difficult to reuse their original function. The recycling process therefore requires more advanced technologies and customised methods to ensure that metals can be transformed into useful materials for new products, without compromising quality.
The production of plastics also faces the same problem. Despite the large amounts of plastic used today, recycling rates are relatively low. Globally, only about 9 per cent of all plastic produced is recycled. Therefore, an important part of creating circular flows is to communicate to companies what opportunities there are to choose a recyclable plastic before the product is created. Using the technology in REMONDIS' factory, infrared scanning and an AI camera make it possible to see what type of plastic is being fed in. This makes it possible to sort out specific brands' packaging so that the right manufacturer gets their plastic back. Unfortunately, we can't recycle everything as there are some products that are not intended for recycling, so the yield is lower. This is another example of how collaboration in the design phase would make recycling easier and more efficient - both economically and environmentally.
Corporate responsibility and greenwashing
For companies, profitability is of course an important element at the end of the day, and unfortunately many times new construction is the cheapest option. But there are also cases where the cost is the same, or even cheaper, when choosing to recycle. In many cases, it is the recycling of products that produces the smallest CO2 footprint in the end, something that several companies are now recognising. "There has been a change in attitude, people want to stop greenwashing and make a real difference.
- Thanks to the rapid development in AI and the willingness of companies to make more climate-smart choices, it feels very exciting to see what the future has to offer and what we can do together to achieve a more sustainable future for us and future generations," concludes Kristoffer Nordenstaaf.
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