How GRAF's Innovative Recycling Plant is Revolutionising Climate Solutions
Did you know that not all plastics are the same? That's just one of the fascinating things we learned during our recent tour of GRAF's Competence Centre for Raw Materials in Herbolzheim. There, millions of discarded items like yogurt pots, shampoo bottles, and crisp bags are transformed into valuable raw materials, which are then converted into durable, sustainable eco products.
At GRAF's recycling plant, the process starts with Wilken Plastics Energy, a GRAF partner that shreds, washes, and dries plastic waste. Next, the prepared material is inspected and reduced further in size at the Competence Centre in Herbolzheim. This is where ultra-modern technology sorts the plastics into their separate types prior to granulation.
But what makes GRAF's recycling process so unique is the advanced technology that allows them to separate black plastics from each other, something no other recycling plant in the world can do. With more than 20 sorting stations worth 300,000 euros each, the process involves an array of optical aids and hi-tech cameras for detecting optical attributes. The plastic is then melted down and forced through a filter under high pressure to remove the very last of any contaminants.
The shreds are processed into homogeneous granulate, which is then used as input stock for durable GRAF products. Over 70% of the company's product range is now made of these recycled materials, and this upward trend is continuing. In fact, the Competence Centre for Raw Materials is an essential component of GRAF's strategy for the resource-friendly production of environmental products.
Managing Director Otto P Graf explains that the Competence Centre embodies 100% sustainability, as it creates jobs in the vicinity of existing production sites, produces environmental products from recycled plastics that are fully recyclable, and uses rainwater as process water and coolant in the preparation of raw materials. By processing and recycling plastics, GRAF saves 100,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year, equivalent to the annual emissions produced by 60,000 passenger cars.
The impressive recycling plant is spotlessly clean, and the shreds don't smell because they have already been washed several times. During our tour, we noticed some faint odours towards the end of the sorting stations, but it was nothing overpowering. Instead, we were struck by how the shreds looked like a treasure chamber for carnival clubs, a ubiquitous phenomenon in South Baden.
In addition to its environmental benefits, GRAF's recycling process is also a technological feat that required thousands of working hours and a lot of honest work. But as GRAF's Head of Raw Materials Jörg Drägert confides, "seeing how it all works as a whole is a wonderful feeling." He compares it a little to the first tentative steps taken by your own child.
The EcoBloc, a ditch element for the infiltration and retention of rainwater, is just one of the many smart climate solutions made possible by GRAF's recycling process. It's amazing to think that it all started with discarded yogurt pots and other plastic waste.
GRAF's innovative recycling plant in Herbolzheim is a prime example of how technology and sustainability can go hand in hand. By recycling plastic waste and turning it into valuable raw materials, GRAF is making an important contribution to the conservation of limited natural resources and the mitigation of climate change.