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Engel Austria: Creating a Circular Economy for plastics

Since their invention, the properties of plastics have made them a go-to choice for manufacturers: lightweight, durable and easy to colour and mould, a whole technology has built up around developing new types of plastic with different properties suitable to different uses. From food packaging to healthcare or automotive, plastics have made our lives cleaner, safer and more convenient.

The other side to the equation is that plastics are also a pollutant, contributing to climate change in their manufacture and lingering in the environment and harming wildlife for hundreds of years after they are no longer useful. 

Engel Austria, a leading manufacturer of plastic processing machines, are working to find better ways to use the material in response to a growing awareness of the problems plastic products cause after they have been discarded. Consumers are conscious of these problems associated with plastic, but there are few viable alternatives and with plastics being used heavily across industries such as car manufacture and healthcare, they have become an indispensable part of modern life. Engel is taking steps to find a process that enables industries and consumers to carry on using an adaptable and useful material without paying a heavy environmental price for the privilege.

Engel says that proper consideration has not been given to every part of the lifecycle of the product, and their answer to plastic pollution is to incorporate it into a circular economy: rather than discard a plastic product when it is no longer being used, it should instead be re-incorporated into the manufacture of new products. This concept has been well understood and used for materials such as glass and aluminium. Due to the structural composition of plastics, however, the process is not as easy as with other materials.

Solving this issue is, says Engel, a technology problem, and one that has a solution. The goal of using recycled materials to remove waste from the environment is one that we must pursue as a matter of urgency, and developing materials that are themselves easier to recycle is a key step in reducing the amount of plastic pollution. 

Novel approaches such as this are a core part of Engel’s drive to become more environmentally friendly, but they cannot achieve this by themselves: their chief innovation is their willingness to engage other stakeholders along the entirety of the value chain, including sharing knowledge with other companies. Collaborating and funding research with other companies has given Engel the opportunity to do the right thing by themselves as a business, their customers, the planet and their industry.



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