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The Circle of Life

"25 years in two-shift operation is enough. Performance is only 30 to 50% compared to when it was new. That’s definitely not enough. It’s got to go. Rather today than tomorrow."

No. You have not just witnessed an interview in the Human Resources department. Andreas Schlegel, Head of Technology and Member of the Management Board at Georg Utz AG, and Andreas Ulmer, Head of Material Processing, were brainstorming an investment proposal. Although the old plastic recycling mill has worked well and reliably for decades, its reliability and performance has greatly reduced over the past few years; so now is the right time for a new purchase. The two have been mulling over the technical requirements for the new mill for quite some time: It must be fast and safe and yes, its power consumption per kilogram of processed material should definitely be lower than that of the old machine. Utz places great emphasis on sustainability and efficiency.

At Georg Utz AG, the concept of reusability forms the basis for all product ideas. There is no such thing as using a plastic container only once and then taking it away to the garbage dump. At the end of their service life, Utz will take back the products. These are then crushed in the plastic recycling mill. The ground material is reused for the production of new products. And exactly this mill is to be replaced after 25 years of service.

The two men and their team put various companies and associated proposals through their paces. There are only a few providers able to tackle such a project. Although they would have preferred working with a Swiss provider, none was able to implement the desired requirements. They were ultimately convinced by and awarded the contract to the Herbold company from Meckesheim in Germany. 

The visit to Herbold's production site confirmed Andreas Schlegel and Andreas Ulmer's decision. They were impressed by state-of-the-art implementation in the machines. Like Georg Utz AG, Herbold is still a family-owned business - in its fourth generation.

It is now up to Andreas Schlegel to convince his management colleagues of his plans. He is well aware of the fact that this is no small investment. But it is so necessary. The old mill can no longer meet the requirements of modern recycling. It grinds only a fraction of the desired 500 kilograms of plastic per hour. In addition, large plastic parts have to be ground by hand with a saw prior to the mechanical grinding process. Not only a risk factor for accidents but also a cost factor. The new mill grinds everything by itself and even manages to process the required 1,000 kilograms of plastic per hour. Andreas Schlegel is banking on these convincing facts.

The proposal is written. Andreas Schlegel reads it one last time and makes his way to the management meeting. He presents his proposal and is very pleased when he returns to his workplace half an hour later, holding the signed investment proposal. The management unanimously agreed with him: The new recycling mill is important for the sustainable use of resources. Nothing now stands in the way of the new acquisition. Another milestone in Utz history at the Bremgarten site.

Even if this acquisition does not eliminate the carpet of plastic waste in our oceans, it is still a step in the right direction. If every plastics processor worldwide had this quota, then things would certainly look much better for our blue planet.


Facts and Figures on Recycling at Georg Utz AG

Georg Utz AG is one of the leading manufacturers of plastic containers, pallets and technical parts for modern reusable logistics. Since its foundation in Switzerland in 1947, the company has grown into an international group of companies with 8 locations on 3 continents.

Recycling and the Utz Industrial Compound UIC ®

The Utz Recycling Centre in Bremgarten takes back discarded pallets and plastic boxes from its customers. The material is stored by type. The recycling machine shreds the plastic into ground material, which is then processed for further use. The physical properties of the recycled material are equal to those of the new material. The whole process is checked and documented by Utz, so that after this rejuvenation treatment, an old plastic container can be turned into a new one without hesitation.

This Utz-specific alternative to the permanent production of new material from finite resources is therefore offered as Utz Industrial Compound (UIC ®).

UIC ® is a plastic raw material with tested and documented properties in the usual Utz quality.

In addition to its own production of recycled material, Georg Utz AG procures large quantities of recycled material from Switzerland and on the world market. This further reduces the use of new materials and therefore also reduces the CO2 footprint of its products.
Utz in Bremgarten achieved an average recycling rate of just under 30% in its products last year.

Comment: For hygienic reasons, such as food applications or other customer requirements, the use of recycled material is not suitable for some products.

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