Back to the beginning – a closed loop thanks to plastics recycling

The production of plastics always generates waste products: plastic residues that can no longer be used. But how can this waste be recycled in the most economical way? The company Gefinex from Pritzwalk, which produces construction materials from plastic foam, has found an innovative solution: an in-house recycling process. It transforms waste into raw materials and is environmentally friendly.

“Since the volume of waste generated during the production of plastic foams is very large, such a production only makes sense from an economic point of view if this production waste is returned to the production cycle directly on site,” says Klaus Osterholt, who manages Gefinex’s production plant in Steffenshagen, Pritzwalk. “The transport of the waste to a recycler would result in high costs.”

In order to close the production cycle, the plastic foam waste is used to manufacture new products. This means that the waste can be used in the same production process that generated it in the first place. However, this requires a careful prior separation of the materials both by colour and by variety.

A second approach—in the framework of which a new product line is created out of mixed waste—is less cumbersome. It makes an efficient reutilisation of different materials feasible. This approach is so successful that Gefinex no longer generates sufficient amounts of plastic waste for the reutilisation process. “And so we really had to find suppliers for the production of our recycled products,” says Osterholt. Gefinex cooperates with partners that deliver high-quality recyclable materials.

Osterholt thinks that this closed loop could serve as a model for the entire sector: “Plastics processing and waste generation are inseparable. This is why we always also have to find a way to put the waste back into the production cycle,” says Osterholt. “And it’s not just us, but all participants in the sector must succeed in finding a reasonable approach.”

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