K2019: Arburg’s focus on the circular economy

Also, download this story from the electronic issue here

In the run-up to the world’s largest plastics show, K2019, to be held from 16-23 October, German plastics and rubber machinery association VDMA is running a series of interviews with its members on the circular economy VDMA says it will “shine the spotlight” on circular economy at the K2019 on how closed loops can work effectively. Featured here is an interview with Dr. Christoph Schumacher, Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications, of injection moulding machine company Arburg GmbH & Co. KG.

Dr. Christoph Schumacher

Plastic as a reusable material is still the material of the 21st century, according to Dr. Christoph Schumacher, Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications , of injection moulding machine company Arburg. But he adds that there are various external framework parameters with a major problem being that plastics are waste products.

“ Plastics materials do not belong in the oceans or the ditches but in a recycling chain. Machine engineering is an enabler, it enables recycling of plastics. You can argue over the need of packaging a cucumber. But you cannot argue about the necessity of plastics in medical technology and in everything affecting people. In this application everyone demands the highest quality product, for instance, when it comes to infusions or stents,” he adds .

Arburg as a machine manufacturer supports circular economy. Why?

Dr. Christoph Schumacher: We have recognised this serious and possibly most important problem of our industry and our society in the next decades, we have understood its dimension and want to contribute to solving it. We firmly believe that that this challenge cannot be faced by individual members of the value-added chain alone.

What can you at Arburg do for the cycle?

Dr. Christoph Schumacher: We as machine manufacturers can help develop new processing techniques and procedures. A classical historic issue is multi-component processing. It shows how new challenges create new techniques, and sometimes new techniques trigger the development of new products. In my view, Arburg is deeply involved in Design for Recycling. We firmly believe that in the next 20 to 30 years the production of plastics will also be oriented towards aspects of recycling, and this is where machine manufacturers are an important factor. We must ensure the production of these parts. And all the time we must bear in mind the common goal of production efficiency for our customers, i.e. to manufacture resource-efficient products with as little material and as little energy as possible.

Is the circular economy a business opportunity?

Dr. Christoph Schumacher: The whole issue must make sense from an economic point of view. The public would refuse to believe us if we pretended to have missionary aspirations. We are an industry. We actually see a business opportunity in circular economy. We could sell the value-added cycle all over the world. There are still so many regions where circular economy does not play any role at all, in many Asian countries, for example, but also in parts of the US. If we could export the European or the German standard to all these markets, we would have an incredible amount of work from this field alone in the next decades. Arburg has customers who already make money as part of circular economies in countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil and also in the US. They collect PET bottles, process them into PET flakes to manufacture PET bottles again.

Whose task will it be to export entire value-added chains to the world?

Dr. Christoph Schumacher: That’s difficult. Circular economy only works if everyone is involved in the value-added chain. But at present, there are no such consortiums to serve as export model. As a rule, such an idea can be successful only if you approach it systematically. All those involved must be convinced, there must be market incentives and legal regulation to define the framework.

What if the EU introduces circular economy and products become more expensive, but competitors from overseas offer them cheaper because they can produce more economically with virgin material?

Dr. Christoph Schumacher: That would be inadmissible distortion of competition. If the EU stipulated certain practices by law that other manufacturers in the global market did not adopt, and if as a consequence our markets were not regulated correspondingly, legislators would have to ensure that other competitors operate under the same conditions in these markets. Of course, this would aggravate market chances for European products in countries that do not have the same environmental standards if consumer behaviour does not change in those countries.

What role does the consumer play?

Dr. Christoph Schumacher: Consumers are an essential lever, but I feel, that they cannot really understand the issue at present. This is reflected in the discussion on biodegradable products, for example. They also see pictures of whales with plastic bags in their stomachs or sea turtles in fishing nets. That’s why in a discussion you don’t stand a chance with communicative methods. What I hope for is that the plastics sector, from material manufacturing to the consumers, finds a common definition. That we recognise circular economy as a common goal and that we then position ourselves correspondingly.


Subscribe to Get the Latest Updates from IMA  Please click here

Copyright (c) 2019 www.injectionmouldingasia.com. All rights reserved.