Frosch Recyclate Initiative cleans up in German competitions

For its innovative Recyclate Initiative Werner & Mertz has been honored with several prizes, including the Federal Ecodesign Award, ECR Award, German Packaging Award and German Packaging Award in Gold.

Innovative Idea, Close Cooperation

With the establishment of the Recyclate Initiative in 2012, partners came together to bundle their know-how with the goal of re-using old plastic material from the previously untapped source, the Yellow Bag collection system, in the production of high-quality packaging.

The central idea is to effectively recycle PET and PE waste from the Yellow Bag – which is not generally done – and lead the materials back to a closed material and production loop. The Recyclate Initiative concept is based on high-tech innovation developed in accordance with Cradle-to-Cradle principles. Reinhard Schneider, CEO of Werner & Mertz and initiator of the Recyclate Initiative, set up the development from the beginning as an "Open Innovation" project. Everyone can – and should – participate in order to advance this smart investment in the future beyond the boundaries of one's own industry. With that goal in mind, partners in the Recyclate Initiative use the campaign "We're for recyclates" to encourage other companies and organizations to join in.

Pioneering Achievements

The initiative first faced the challenge of developing a formula for PET recyclates that could satisfy demanding usage requirements with regard to form, function and feel. Furthermore, the PET bottles had to appear unchanged to ensure consumers' acceptance. As a result of their cooperative efforts, the initiative was able to fill and market 100,000 bottles of 100% recyclates, 20% of which was PET recyclates from the Yellow Bag. The high-tech Unisensor company of Karlsruhe succeeded in developing an efficient fine sorting of PET granules or flakes with the help of ultra-modern laser technology. Lasers sort the granules in such a way that only transparent granules remain. The subsequent extrusion process eliminates any residual invisible impurities. The respected Frauenhofer Institute examined the recovered material and declared it in compliance with the USA Food & Drug Administration standard which allows use of the material with foodstuffs.

Active Climate and Environmental Protection

The processing of recycled plastic – from used packaging to PET – has a twofold environmental advantage over conventional products made of crude oil. For one thing, processing is not based on fossil resources, but on recyclates. Thus the raw material cycle comes full circle. Secondly, the manufacturing process consumes up to two-thirds less energy, thereby saving twice as much CO2. "We understand this type of upcycling as part of our diligently practiced eco effectiveness," says CEO Schneider.

"We are delighted with the recognition that this respected prize brings," said Reinhard Schneider, Managing Partner of Werner & Mertz, at the award ceremony. "We hope it will publicize our cause and help us to gain more partners in the Recyclate Initiative and thus attain more sustainability in packaging."

Genuine Recycling and Recyclability

In 2016 in collaboration with the bottle manufacturer Alpla-Werke Alwin Lehner GmbH & Co KG and the Green Dot, Werner & Mertz developed a new type of bottle for cleaning products which is made of 100% recycled plastic obtained from the Yellow Bag. The remarkable thing is that previously no translucent and white material had ever been produced from recyclable domestic refuse. Conventional PE recyclates do not have those qualities. The objective was to produce a translucent material that would allow the consumer to see the product's fill-level. An optimized washing process and the integrated decontamination step are additional developments in the manufacture of high-quality PE packaging from recyclates. With this development, the Recyclate Initiative has achieved its goal of eliminating dyes in packaging for the benefit of true recycling and recyclability.

Vision for the Future

The Mainz-based company will continue to pursue ambitious recycling goals in the future. Werner & Mertz wants to fully exploit the potential of one and one-half million tons of plastic waste from the Yellow Bag and intends to promote the use of new technologies. Crude oil is a limited resource and what's lacking is a vision of an effective material cycle.

"We are delighted that our latest pioneering achievement has been honored with the German Packaging Award. With our newest development of PE packaging from post-consumer recyclates, we show what true recyclability looks like," said CEO Schneider, who accepted the German Packaging Award a second time on behalf of his company in 2016. Eventually all PE packaging for the Werner & Mertz brands will be manufactured in the new quality from the recycled plastic obtained from the Yellow Bag.

Details about the awards

ECR Award Price
ECR Award
: The "Efficient Consumer Response" (ECR) award honors outstanding collaborative work across the value chain that puts customer orientation in the focus. The renowned prize is presented annually at a festive event in Nuremburg with about 400 guests from top management of leading industrial and commercial companies.

German Packaging Award
: The international cross-industry and materials competition for the German Packaging Award is held every year with the goal of recognizing futuristic solutions and developments in packaging. Since 1963 an independent jury has made annual awards in five categories. Prize winners qualify for participation in the "WorldStar" competition put on by the World Packaging Organisation. The German Packaging Institute (DVI) is the organizer of the German Packaging Award. Many representatives of business and politics attended the ceremony for the award, which is under the patronage of the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Sigmar Gabriel.

Bundespreis ecodesign product 2014
Federal Ecodesign Award
: Since 2012 the Federal Environment Ministry and the Federal Environment Agency have promoted the annual Federal Ecodesign Award to make the public aware of ecological design's contribution to environmental protection and to encourage innovation in this area. The Federal Ecodesign Award puts environmental assessment and design evaluation on equal footing and showcases innovative products, services and ideas of outstanding ecological and design quality.

German Packaging Award in Gold: With the Packaging Award in Gold, the jury bestowed special honors on three of the winning innovations in 2016. According to the jury, the three solutions deserved attention for the special ways they start trends, answer pressing questions or, as pioneers, head off in completely new directions.

Who does what in the Recyclate Initiative?

Green Dot (DSD):is the collection system (Yellow Bag) for consumer packaging, with sorting and preliminary processing)
UNISENSOR Systems:ensures fine sorting for PET flakes from Yellow Bag by means of high-speed laser spectroscopy
ALPLA:manufactures PET bottles from recovered material. Packaging is of high-quality with a share of up to 40% recyclate from the Yellow Bag
Frosch:is the initiator, promoter, filler and implementer of innovation;
introduced to the market recyclate packaging with up to 20% recyclate from Yellow Bag
REWE:interface to consumers, supports and educates the consumer in the issue of sustainability in packaging
NABU:supports value-adding development with critical expertise

» More info at Integrally-Sustainable