The Recyclate Initiative advocates more sustainability in waste management. Werner & Mertz and its cooperation partner NABU (German Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union) agree that the ecological orientation of the laundry detergent and household cleaners industry should not be limited to raw materials and formulas. The ecological assessment of products has to consider packaging design and composition too. One target of the Recyclate Initiative is better reuse of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) waste from the Yellow Bag. A large portion of used plastic containers is not suitably recycled. After the bottles have been collected in the Yellow Bag system, they often serve as ancillary fuel in municipal incinerators. Consequently, the precious and finite raw material of crude oil is wasted and the environment polluted by CO2.
Conserve raw materials and protect the environment
The use of PET recyclate could save thousands of liters of oil. Furthermore, much less energy is required to reprocess old PET than to produce new plastic. Frosch PET bottles are made up of 80% recyclate. As much as 40% of that comes from the Yellow Bag and so brings us a giant step closer to our goal.
Benefits from PET reuse include resource conservation, lower energy consumption and reduced emissions. One gram of PET recyclate corresponds to a CO2 savings of three grams, which would be emitted by incineration alone.
The Yellow Bag as source of raw materials
The PET recyclate for our plastic Frosch bottles currently come from the beverage industry. In order to make good ecological use of the Yellow Bag as a great source of secondary raw materials, we have to use a new sorting technology. Classic recycling (downcycling) functions as follows: plastic waste from the Yellow Bag is collected, cleaned, roughly sorted and processed into "flakes". Those small particles can then be used in the production of new PET products. The problem is that this type of recycling is inadequate when we want to manufacture single-variety or single-color PET bottles. For that purpose the waste has to be more finely sorted and thoroughly cleaned. The good news is that the technology already exists. This is where "upcycling" begins. At Werner & Mertz we refer to this part of the recycling process as "eco-effectiveness". Now highly modern technologies are used to filter again and clean the PET flakes. The result is high-quality PET granules from which preforms for new PET bottles are made. This is where PET comes full circle.
Objectives of the Recyclate Initiative
1. A higher proportion of PET recyclate in PET bottles in general (outside the beverage industry)
2. A greater proportion of PET recyclate in particular from the Yellow Bag collection system
3. Use of innovative and improved sorting technology for high-quality reuse of PET from the Yellow Bag up to food-grade applications (e.g., packaging for ketchup). To that end a Werner & Mertz project team is working with the Grünen Punkt - Duales System Deutschland, ALPLA Werke Alwin Lehner GmbH & Co. KG and Unisensor Sensorsysteme GmbH.
Unfortunately, most manufacturers still make new bottles with PET based on crude oil. The world supply of this valuable resource is limited. Instead of wasting oil, we should use the vast quantities of used plastic that we have already produced. At Werner & Mertz we take this advice to hear and put our money on innovative and sustainable alternatives. Our goal is to have packaging made of 100% recycled material. The PET bottles for our Frosch brand already consist of 80% of recyclates and 40% of that comes from recycled material from the Yellow Bag! But we are not satisfied with that. We want to exploit fully the potential of 1.5 million tons of plastic waste from the Yellow Bag. For in the future we want to recycle materials that we have not yet been able to incorporate into the system, like the caps for PET bottles, which are made from a different material. With our Recyclate Initiative we would like to make more progress with these developments. We are counting on being able to increase our use of new technologies and convince companies outside the cleaning industry to use our high-quality recycling process. Then we will soon be able to turn the packaging of the future into the standard. Perhaps in the cosmetic or food industry too. That's what we're working toward.