In Germany alone, over 450,000 metric tons of used PET bottles are collected each year. It is therefore important to create opportunities for processing and to close material cycles. With a production volume of around 40 million metric tons per year, PET bottles are the leading type of packaging for drinks across the globe.
Rhenus PET Recycling opened one of the most modern processing facilities for PET plastics in Europe on April 20th in Hamburg, following a construction period of a year. The plant is the company’s third operating site after Gelsenkirchen and Lüneburg. Rhenus will be capable of producing up to 20,000 metric tons of flakes from used PET bottles at the site each year. The bottles predominantly come from the retail trade in the catchment area around Hamburg. The new processing facility in Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg consists of a sorting line, a wet-shredding mill and a washing line, and turns single-use bottles into plastic flakes which can be reused.
Processing takes only a few minutesBottles agglomerated into bales and briquettes are fed into the sorting line, where sealing tops, film, cans, loose labels and contaminants are removed before the bottles are then sorted by colour (limpid and coloured). All of this is done by optical sorters and ballistic separators. The bottles then go into the wet-shredding mill where they are crushed to flakes. In a third step, the washing line, the flakes are hot washed and dried. Any labels and glue residues are removed during this stage, and foreign plastics such as sealing tops and metal particles are separated. Finally, the flakes are packaged in FIBCs – large bulk storage bags.
Sustainability in the spotlight:-A combined heat and power plant supplies the facility with additional electrical energy and heat. -The water used in the hot washing stage is processed and retained in the loop. -The site is furnished with energy-saving LED lights. -Separated foreign plastics such as screenings, plastic labels or sealing top regrind are further processed for the manufacturing industry at Rhenus PET Recycling’s facility in Lüneburg, or at RE Plano in Lünen, to be used in the production of garden furniture, for example.
Fig. 1: Ralf Mandelatz, Managing Director, Rhenus Recycling
Rhenus PET Recycling was founded in 2012 and took over the fixed assets of STF Recycling West in Gelsenkirchen. Rhenus is a 100% subsidiary of Rhenus Recycling, a joint venture company of Rhenus and REMONDIS. The Rhenus Group is a worldwide logistics service provider with an annual turnover of € 4.6 billion. Rhenus has business locations at more than 500 sites and employs over 26,000 people. The business areas Contract Logistics, Freight Logistics, Port Logistics and Public Transport cover the management of complex supply chains and innovative, value-added services. Rhenus purchased a plant in Lüneburg from LünePET at the turn of the year 2013/2014, gaining a second PET Recycling operating facility. This facility is where many of the by-products from the other PET processing facilities are further sorted and finished ready for material recycling in Europe. The new processing facility at Eversween in Hamburg is their third site. A counting centre for single-use bottles with deposits is located in the immediate vicinity, as well as a Rhenus Recycling glass processing facility and the Rhenus Office Systems archive. The site, which measures 2.5 hectares, provides around 11,000 square metres of warehouse and covered space for the facility’s manufacturing technology and for storing the raw and finished items. Together, the three operating facilities for PET processing in Gelsenkirchen, Lüneburg and Hamburg, are able to produce around 50,000 metric tons of PET flakes per year. comPETence caught up with Ralf Mandelatz, Managing Director of Rhenus Recycling to discuss PET recycling in general, and more specifically the new facility, the markets, as well as current and future challenges.