Author: Elisabeth Brandstetter

“Our entry into the recycling business helps us to think in circles.”

© Greiner AG

Greiner Recycling has been part of the Greiner Group for around 1.5 years. We took this and Global Recycling Day as an opportunity to talk to Peter Fessl, Director Operations Recycling at Greiner Packaging. In the interview, he sums up the last one and a half years and takes a look into the future. He also explains what we have learned at Greiner and what challenges we still face.

The acquisition of Greiner Recycling was announced in September 2022. Can you briefly explain what Greiner Recycling does?
Greiner Recycling in Nova Gajdobra, Serbia, is a subsidiary of Greiner Packaging. The site mainly produces r-PET flakes. Greiner Recycling currently processes around a quarter of all PET bottles disposed of in Serbia into r-PET flakes. In simple terms: PET bottles are taken from waste streams, sorted by color, ground, washed, re-sorted and finally sold for further processing. PP and PE flakes are also obtained from bottle caps as a by-product.

What products are these flakes then processed into?
Greiner Recycling produces three types of flakes, each with a different color: transparent, blue and mixed. The transparent and blue flakes are used exclusively in food packaging such as PET bottles, cups, bowls, lids, spice jars or sauce bottles. For the production of new food packaging, however, a further purification step is required after our production in Serbia – the so-called decontamination. This is necessary in order to meet all food safety requirements. We do not currently process mixed flakes ourselves, but sell them to external partners. In any case, we are noticing that the trend in packaging is towards transparent/translucent, for example transparent light blue. Industry-specific colors are also playing a role – such as white-colored products, which could then be used for food packaging.

What milestones have been achieved since the purchase of the recycling plant?
One milestone was the integration of the plant into the Greiner world. Most progress has been made in the Health & Satefy area. The reporting system was also adapted to the Greiner environment. The ISO 9001 and 14001 certifications in December were definitely another highlight.
Another milestone for me is the fact that we have a team on site in Nova Gajdobra that identifies 100 percent with the topic and sees the future viability of this production site as well as this industry itself. I am proud of our colleagues and very grateful for what they are doing for Greiner, but also for the development of waste management in Serbia.
Of course, we are also particularly pleased that we can now process our own material into products, so to speak. For example, sauce and honey bottles are made from it in Wartberg and lids, blister packs and cups in Slusovice.

And what were your most important learnings after almost 1.5 years of Greiner Recycling?
Above all, our entry into the recycling business helps us at Greiner to think in cycles. Because what you produce, you get back. “Design for recycling” must be taken very seriously. The question is “How should products be designed so that they can be collected, separated and recycled?” Anyone who doesn’t think outside the box here makes it more difficult or, in the worst case, prevents the possibility of recycling. And as a recycling company, you will also notice this in the efficiency of your production.
Basically, the fact that we are involved in recycling is also viewed very positively. There is a lot of interest from local journalists and kindergarten groups have already visited the plant in Serbia. Here they learned how to separate waste and deal with plastic waste. That sounds pretty simple and not very exciting, but you wouldn’t believe how passionate children are about this topic. It is certainly also our mission to be open to such visits and campaigns and thus make our contribution to raising awareness of the circular economy and recycling.

A look into the future: what is planned at Greiner Recycling in 2024?
Our focus in 2024 at Greiner Recycling will be on health, safety and the environment. We also have the goal of achieving RecyClass certification. These are voluntary audits that prove the degree of recyclability of plastic packaging and the recycled content of the plastics used in products. Greiner Recycling will also continue to benefit from the opportunities within the Greiner Packaging Group. Production processes will be further optimized, shift models expanded and quality improved. In any case, we will continue to prevent landfilling, i.e. dumping in the environment, in Serbia. The more we process, the better it is for the environment!

Author:

Elisabeth Brandstetter

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