Lucas van der Schalk, Chief Operating Officer at packaging firm, DS Smith Plastics, discusses how a collaboration between the company’s Plastics and Paper divisions has seen waste turned into an award-winning resource.
Plastic rejects are a common by-product of the paper-making process. While we continue to inspire best practice and deliver packaging innovation to minimise this contamination, identifying creative ways to repurpose waste as a resource helps to make the whole process more sustainable.
Take the DS Smith Kemsley Paper Mill, for example. As the UK’s largest paper recycling facility, the mill is subject to a nominal volume of plastic rejects. To prevent this waste from ending up in landfill, rejects are used as fuel for the mill’s on-site energy recovery facility. Alongside reducing running costs, this sustainable power minimises reliance on mains energy supply.
While recovering waste is more beneficial than landfilling, we need to take principles from the circular economy into consideration. This ideology has been a key driver of our recent project at Aschaffenburg Mill in Germany, which sees plastic rejects dealt with higher up the waste hierarchy and given another useful life.
From waste to resource
As with most facilities, Aschaffenburg Mill clearly separates plastics from pulp in the papermaking process. However, while paper fibre continues on its journey, plastic rejects are sent for reprocessing into pellets, and are then used in the production of a completely new product, Beaulex®, at DS Smith’s Plastics facility in Croatia.
Made entirely from the post-consumer plastic recovered at Aschaffenburg Mill, Beaulex is a small hollow ball that can be lain (in mass) under tarmac to manage the absorption of rainfall in urban spaces. When applied correctly, the technology can prevent flash flooding in sites such as car parks.
Already recognised as ‘Best Building & Construction Product’ at last month’s Plastics Recycling Europe Awards 2018, the innovation is proving popular across the continent. A tangible example of closing the loop on material streams and increasing resource efficiency across the business, Beaulex is helping to inspire new ways of using plastic waste.
Beaulex is just the start. Across the group numerous trials are in place to improve the circularity of day-to-day operations. When it comes to hitting 2020 corporate targets of lowering CO2 emissions and reducing effluent water, we are already making great strides.
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