04.04.2024 - Mainz - Company-News

Red recyclate is now recyclable!

Fine sorting makes high-quality reuse possible

The Mainz brand manufacturer Werner & Mertz with its cooperation partner ALPLA has made another type of packaging in its product portfolio even more sustainable. Since September 2023 the bottles of rorax pipe unblocker power-granulate have been made of 50 percent red Post-Consumer Recyclate (PCR). To date, about 230,000 bottles have been placed in the market. Until now, high-quality re-use of colored plastic from the Yellow Bag was not feasible. By adding an extra step to the recycling process, the partners found a way to sort out the red flakes for subsequent re-use.

Werner & Mertz is the first-time purchaser of red rHDPE flakes

Recycling facilities usually offer only three different qualities of recyclate, i.e., transparent, white and the colorful remainder which is melted down to a gray mass and used mostly in downcycling. Sorting out additional colors is technically feasible – but without buyers there is no market to justify it. Another (fine) sorting step is required and in each run-through only one color can be sorted out.

Since the Recyclate Initiative was founded in 2012, Werner & Mertz has relied on recyclate from the Yellow Bag and has followed the Design for Recycling principle for its packaging.   Transparent and white bottles have become standard and the Frosch brand has even done without its brand-specific green caps in order to improve the packaging’s recyclability. In the case of rorax, the customary red color of the bottle calls attention to the drain cleaner’s high-performance formula. To design sustainable packaging, Werner & Mertz turned to the specialists at ALPLArecycling and together they developed a solution.

“ALPLA supports recycling processes in that we sort by ‘mono colors’ in our recycling facilities and process the material into colored rHDPE. So we can offer our customers the option of producing bottles of the same color. Together with Werner & Mertz we have succeeded in putting a higher proportion of red recyclate into new bottles,“ said Michael Heyde, Head of Technology at ALPLArecycling.

High-quality upcycling instead of low-quality downcycling

After the white and transparent PCR flakes are sorted out, another color is removed from the remaining flow before the remaining colored flakes are processed. By finding a way to use red PCR flakes in packaging, the cooperation partners prevent the red PCR from being downcycled for lower quality uses.

“Processing red recyclate for use in our rorax bottles is yet another milestone for our Recyclate Initiative. We have successfully used mechanical recycling to extract another color—red—that can be kept in a high-quality closed loop. With our cooperation partners, we are advancing the technological exploitation of used plastic from the Yellow Bag,” said Alexander Schau, Head of Packaging Development at Werner & Mertz.

This pioneering achievement proves again the feasibility of high-quality recycling of material from the Yellow Bag.