Plastics recycling with a clear concept

An interview with founders Gisbert Schulte-Bücker and Martin Brinkschmidt – Managing Partners of the energenta Group

‘Our work is becoming increasingly dynamic,’ explains Gisbert Schulte-Bücker.

Why is that?

‘The raw materials which are currently used to make plastics are finite. This is particularly true of the number one material – mineral oil,’ says Gisbert Schulte-Bücker. ‘If these resources keep becoming scarcer, the price will rise and it will become more and more difficult to make affordable products. That is why it is absolutely crucial – even just from an economic point of view – that we expand plastics recycling and return materials to production processes.’

What about the environmental aspect?

‘That’s at least as important. The advantages of plastic as a non-consumable material which is very flexible and robust always become a critical issue when it is disposed of thoughtlessly. That is because it takes hundreds of years for some plastics to decompose. Many of the processes which it then goes through in an uncontrolled fashion – such as breaking down into microplastics – are now rightly seen as problematic by the general public,’ Martin Brinkschmidt replies.

What is the energenta Group’s recycling concept?

‘We are pretty unique with our approach of offering both materials recycling and thermal recovery. Our recycling processes ensure that not a single kilo of plastic is lost.

As well as conserving resources very effectively, this makes good economic sense because shareholders and consumers are increasingly paying attention to how companies fulfil their environmental responsibility. This can have a direct impact on sales and share prices. For that reason, we develop tailored concepts including high-performance logistics, regular staff training and permanent quality controls,’ says Martin Brinkschmidt.

What challenges does plastics recycling present?

‘Initially, it’s about assessing the quality and quantity of the plastics delivered to us in order to decide whether they are suitable for recycling or thermal recovery. Pure plastics are always best as these only have to be brought into a form which can be processed. However, we do not always receive sorted materials, so we have to start by separating mixed batches into different types of plastic. We have our own methods of doing this, such as the sink-float process or electrostatic separation – and sometimes even good old manual sorting. This means that an old coffee machine casing or a discarded automotive preform can become a new telephone or a new casing, for example,’ adds Gisbert Schulte-Bücker, listing some of the possibilities.

So you recycle and trade materials.

‘Exactly. We sell the resources we recover to manufacturing companies. And we buy materials too, such as mixed regrind, which we can convert back into pure stock with the help of our expertise. As we work for clients both in Germany and abroad, we know exactly who wants to dispose of – or source – which material where,’ explains Gisbert Schulte-Bücker.

Where do you think the future of plastics recycling lies?

‘In an even more consistent circular economy with even greater opportunities for plastics recycling. That is what we are working to achieve – every day and with a strong sense of conviction,’ concludes Martin Brinkschmidt.