Sustainability in the plastics industry?

AZO showed how it's done – at K 2022

Finite resources, environmental pollution and waste generation. These are the keywords that have characterized many plastic products to date. But this is not necessarily the case, as we demonstrated at the world's largest plastics trade fair, K, in Düsseldorf, Germany. The entire industry is undergoing a rethink. Awareness of the finite nature of fossil raw materials has grown significantly in recent years, and the increasingly clear signs of climate change and environmental pollution have shown at the latest: We must learn to use our resources sparingly and sustainably. Plastics in particular are criticized from this point of view, as they are usually manufactured using petroleum and cannot be completely degraded in a natural way.

In addition to the classic topics such as PVC production or compounding, we therefore focused on solutions for the automation of recycled materials or biopolymers. Here, our spectrum ranges from ultra-fine and lightweight regrinds from film shreds to processed household waste and the upcycling of industrial production waste, such as window profiles.

In addition, there are now numerous plastics made from renewable raw materials that are completely biodegradable - so-called biopolymers. Here, originally artificial additives are replaced by natural additives such as starch or cellulose.

Each of these recycled and sustainable raw materials presents different challenges in terms of their automated handling. These challenges stem from the different properties of the raw materials and are extensively analyzed by us in our in-house raw material laboratory and test center. With the help of this analysis and our many years of expertise, the design and execution of the plant can be individually adapted to the environmentally friendly materials. At K, we presented various solutions for this purpose, which met with lively interest from visitors.

The many discussions we were able to hold and the noticeable willingness to invest also showed that we have hit the mark with our plant solutions. In the course of the eight days of the trade show, we had numerous discussions with (future) customers and were already able to conclude a number of orders. Visitors from Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey were particularly well represented at this year's K, but the proportion of overseas visitors was also strong, as usual, at 42%. By contrast, the number of visitors from China and Russia was significantly lower.

One thing clearly crystallized during the discussions with customers: "The future of the plastics industry lies in sustainable production, recycling and the use of environmentally friendly materials. And we as AZO are helping to achieve these goals," said Thomas Stegmeier (Head of Sales, Poly) from AZO.

The next K in Düsseldorf will take place in October 2025 and we are already looking forward to presenting our solutions to you again then.