Plastic and Sustainability

Worldwide plastics production reached a total of 348 million metric tons in 2017. In international comparison, Europe accounted for approximately 65 million metric tons (19 percent) of plastics production, putting it in second place behind China (29 percent), the world’s largest producer, and slightly ahead of the NAFTA countries2 (18 percent). The European plastics industry employed more than 1.5 million people in 2017 in approximately 60,000 companies and generated sales of some 350 billion euros (plasticseurope.de).

An analysis of demand and consumption in Europe shows that Central Europe and, in particular, Germany are among the main consumers: Roughly one quarter of European demand is concentrated in Germany (24.6 percent), followed by Italy with around 14.0 percent and France with 9.6 percent. As in previous years, the packaging industry with 39.7 percent is in this context the most important consuming sector, followed by the construction industry (19.8 percent) and automotive manufacturing (10.1 percent) (plasticseurope.de).

Varied Applications
Plastics can be found in many everyday objects because their properties make them highly versatile, cost-effective and exceptionally durable. In fact, due to their technical and chemical properties there are scarcely any suitable substitutes for certain applications. In long-lasting applications, plastics help conserve resources, for instance, by contributing to the weight reduction of components. Conversely, plastic is responsible for a global environmental problem if it enters the natural world as waste. According to a report compiled by the United Nations in 2018, only around nine percent of all the plastics ever made have been recycled. It went on to state that only twelve percent were burnt. By contrast, the remaining 79 percent of the total of some nine billion metric tons of plastic ­remained in landfill sites or in the environment. A significant share of the plastic waste produced worldwide in this context can be attributed to disposable plastic items. The UN report singles out cigarette butts, plastic bottles and their caps, food packaging, plastic bags and covers as the disposable plastics that occur most frequently in the environment. According to a report by the Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, between 55 and 60 percent of all plastic waste in the world’s oceans can be traced back to five countries. At the top of this list is China, followed by Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand (oceanconservancy.org). Furthermore, the key results of an analysis by McKinsey & Company show that the volume of plastic waste worldwide will probably continue to grow until 2030, even if the recycling rate improves at the same time. Reaching a substantially higher level of reprocessing calls for significant investment on the one hand and requires collaboration between all relevant stakeholders along the entire value-added chain on the other. In addition to the legislative bodies, this collaboration must involve the chemical industry, the plastics processing companies, the packaging and consumer goods industry as well as consumers (mckinsey.de).

Plastic – a Material in Demand Worldwide

Plastic production by region in percent in 2017

Source: plasticseurope.de

1 CIS: Confederation of Independent States (Successor states of the Soviet Union)
2 NAFTA: North American Free Trade Agreement Members: Canada, Mexico, USA

As a global plastics processor, the Röchling Group is fully aware of its ecological and social responsibility. By investing consistently and systematically in product development as well as in future-oriented and eco-friendly innovations, Röchling is already making sustainable processes and products possible today. We place particular importance on a corporate culture that promotes innovations and the development of appropriate solutions for global trends. Röchling’s products and services will also be environmentally compatible in the future. Protecting the environment as well as the improvement of living and environmental conditions are key corporate goals at Röchling. With products made of technical and high-performance plastics for the capital goods industry, the automotive sector as well as medical and pharmaceutical technology, our companies not only ensure a high level of customer benefit but also open up new ­opportunities for enhanced sustainability for the customer. ­Röchling products from the Industrial and Auto­motive divisions have a long service life and contribute, for example, to the reduction of CO2 and NOX emissions, energy savings, process improvements, and the conservation of resources. The products of the Medical division contribute to the protection of human health.

Lignostone® – a Renewable Raw Material for High-Voltage Transformers

For almost a century, the Röchling Group has produced the high-performance insulating material Lignostone® for use in oil-filled transformers. Lignostone® is manufactured from beechwood veneers (Fagus sylvatica), which offer the best electrical and mechanical strength for use as an insulating material for oil-filled transformers. The rotary-cut veneers used for Lignostone® are produced exclusively from trees sourced from certified sustainable forestry in Europe and, as such, ensure the continuous rejuvenation of the European forests. Transformers containing insulating components made of Lignostone® can be operated without problems for 30 years, thus conserving valuable resources.

LubX® Sliding Material Saves Energy

LubX® CV is a sliding material designed specifically for the plant and machinery used in conveyor technology and automation. Thanks to the exceptional sliding properties of this material, conveyor systems, such as bottling plants in the beverage industry, can be operated at higher speeds and pressure loads and therefore higher productivity. LubX® reduces energy consumption while at the same time extending the service life of plants.

Active Grille Shutters

Automotive manufacturers place a great deal of emphasis on designing the vehicle body to be as aerodynamic as possible to reduce air resistance while the vehicle is in motion. The goal here is an efficient compromise between minimum air resistance and maximum cooling performance, which can be achieved only through the supply of air on an as-needed basis. Intelligent, actively controllable air flap systems – known as Active Grille Shutters – by Röchling Automotive master precisely this balancing act. To maximize the effect of using Active Grille Shutters, the component should be positioned as close to the front of the vehicle as possible, and all openings should be properly sealed. In particular, the integration of Active Grille Shutters in the vehicle design area is one of the strengths of Röchling Automotive. The use of Active Grille Shutters reduces air resistance by up to 25 points (Cd). This results in CO2 savings of up to three grams of CO2 per kilometer.

SCR Tank Systems

Having initially been designed for use in commercial vehicles, SCR exhaust aftertreatment systems are increasingly used in passenger cars equipped with diesel engines. The selective catalytic reduction process uses a urea solution to convert nitrogen oxides in exhaust gas into nitrogen and water without producing any undesirable byproducts. To meet the growing demand for reliable SCR systems as effectively as possible, Röchling Automotive offers an SCR system solution with injection-molded tanks and filling systems.

Sympfiny®

It is often difficult to orally administer the correct amount of medicine to children accurately and safely. A leading pharma­ceutical company has developed a new form of delivery to solve the problem. In cooperation with HS Design from Gladstone, USA, Röchling Medical developed the new drug delivery system Sympfiny® for this form of administration. It administers the medication in a simple and reliable way, ensuring precise dosage.