En route to 2025 with Verstraete IML

19 May 2019

Verstraete IML has not been idle since the signature of the New Plastics Economy’s Global Commitment . With ‘The Road to 2025’, the IML specialist translates the Global Commitment into its own personal efforts. This initiative should prepare Verstraete IML for the circular economy. Managing Director Koen Verstraete and Product & Circular Economy Manager Nico Van de Walle explain the process.

Global Commitment
“Now that the first phase of the New Plastics Economy initiative is at its end, we’re continuing along our own path,” says Koen Verstraete. “Our goal? To fulfil our Global Commitment and both actively and proactively prepare Verstraete IML for the circular economy. At this point, we need to continue our efforts at the same pace.”

Koen Verstraete adds: “The three cornerstones of the Global Commitment support our ambitions. We are handling plastic materials as efficiently as possible (eliminate), we guarantee 100% recycling, reusability and industrial compostability of IML packaging (innovate) and we are working towards a circular economy with several lifecycles of IML packages (circulate).

Our first step in our Global Commitment is to ensure that 0% of our industrial plastic waste ends up in nature.”

Partnership with recycling company PRV
Nico Van de Walle: “To prevent our industrial waste from ending up in nature, we have already introduced structural measures. We have partnered up with Plastic Recycling Verstraete (PRV), a recycling company that borders our own industrial site. This means that our waste takes a shortcut. In so doing, we can avoid a negative environmental impact and maintain our focus on sustainability.”

What kinds of waste do you collect?
Nico Van de Walle: “We only deal with structural waste originating from our own production activities. We print our labels on polypropylene film, which entails inks and lacquers, and we custom-cut every printing sheet into labels. Part of those printing sheets ends up as waste. A special machine – a central vacuum cleaner – collects all the remains in a central location. Every year, we send an average of 5,000 tons of industrial waste to PRV.
“Apart from our own waste, we also deal with other types of waste. A good example is the PE wrapping foil around the pallets with raw materials that are delivered to us. To recycle that foil, we rely on our partner Renewi. They pick up the waste and take care of the recycling process. They also provide us the necessary certificates, giving us proof of the fact that our waste flows are 100% recycled and reused.”

How does PRV process your waste flows?
Koen Verstraete explains: “PRV cuts up the waste and melts it in an extruder. During the melting process, the waste also undergoes double degassing to guarantee a perfect quality of the granules. Spherical granules are released and, after drying, PRV collects them in big bags.”

How are those granules given a second life?
Nico Van de Walle: “The recycled material ends up in all kinds of applications in different sectors. For example, our plastic pallets are made 100% from our own recycled waste. The car industry also uses large quantities of granules to produce bumpers and other parts. Furthermore, Flowerpots are often made of recycled materials. A less well-known application is roofing. We sell part of our recycled materials to our existing clients, which they use to produce new IML buckets that are later on filled with, for example, paint.”

Koen Verstraete: “These are great examples of how we give our waste a new lease on life, but we want to go further. In the future, we also want to further enhance the quality of our recycled materials since, after all, the economic aspect is important in the circular economy. The greater the value of the granules, the greater the possibilities to process them.”

What kinds of quality measures do you have in mind?
Nico Van de Walle: “Our waste contains ink and lacquer residue. This is why the recycled raw materials are gray in color and have a very specific odor. We are working towards structural solutions that limit the color and odor impact on the granules as much as possible.”

“Our second major goal is to improve the mechanical properties of the recycled materials. If we succeed in achieving these two goals, the sky will be the limit when it comes to high-quality applications in the packaging sector. This also brings us one step closer to our ultimate goal of preparing our company and products for the circular economy.”