Way2K: Industry interviews in the lead-up to the K 2022 fair “We have the role of an ambassador”

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Way2K: Industry interviews in the lead-up to the K 2022 fair “We have the role of an ambassador”

Interview with Peter Steinbeck, CEO of Windmöller & Holscher KG

Mr. Steinbeck, what can a machine manufacturer like Windmoller &Holscher do to close plastic loops?

We can ensure that the machines are able to handle the recycled materials coming out of the loop and process them into new products in the best possible way. However, it’s also about designing products to make them recyclable in the first place. One example would be using mono materials that are easy to recycle, but have the same properties as multi-layer films. We can give customers machinery that can optimally handle the challenges of recyclate processing. But most importantly, we can also provide the right advice to help our customers deal with the requirements of the end customers in their countries in the best possible way. Sustainability is an important consulting topic in each of our discussions with customers.

Some countries in Asia or Africa often don’t even have a garbagecollection system, so where would you start?

Our possibilities with our own machines are limited, as waste systems and recycling plants are not part of our portfolio. However, we are making headway all over the world. We can help companies there to network and show them how to get the soiled material back, how to recycle it and where to get recycled goods. We see promising projects on our travels and can tell others in the regions about them. We have the role of an ambassador. In countries like Indonesia or Vietnam, where the circular economy is not yet considered, it’s
about generating lighthouse customers who are also motivated to tackle the issue of the circular economy, and subsequently offering them the right technology for their requirements.

Don’t we need to do more though if we want to reduce the amount ofwaste in the oceans?

Definitely. The great thing is that a lot is happening right now. I would also like to see the circular economy being promoted through city partnerships in developing and emerging countries. After all, every city in Germany has twin cities today; these are mostly cities in the West, however. Why not enter into a partnership with Surabaya in Indonesia with the aim of setting up a municipal waste disposal system there? Such a commitment would achieve much more than banning disposable drinking straws.

How is W&H represented with its own machines in these countries?

W&H machines are in use all over the world. Our customers appreciate the innovative strength of a German machine manufacturer and the partnership- based advice from W&H – especially on the subject of recycling management right now. In India, China and many other countries in particular, however, there are also companies that are not yet connecting to our high-tech machines. Nevertheless, our developments will also benefit them. This is comparable to cars, where technical innovations are initially implemented in the high-end segment. In time, however, they will also reach the mid-range, and finally every small car. So in the end, German technology can make a major contribution to the further development of the entire industry here as well.

One problem of the circular economy is the insufficient availability andeven lower consumption of recyclates. What needs to be done here?

We in Germany, or even across Europe, need to set a good example. This also includes ensuring that the yellow bags that we all collect so diligently are no longer exported, but actually remain in the country. If it is cheaper to sell them to Malaysia, then this must be prevented, also at EU level. Politicians must put a stop to this. Incidentally, all the major film manufacturers – our customers – have been dealing with PCR, i.e. material obtained from plastic packaging waste, for some time now. They need machines that can be operated economically, even with lower quality materials.

Digitalisation is closely interwoven with the circular economy. How areyou positioned in this regard?

With RUBY, we have developed an IoT platform that connects our customers’ machines within our process chain. It provides the data for our machines. Via apps, customers can make evaluations or also get help for the operators. This is becoming increasingly important because it is becoming more and more difficult to find highly trained skilled workers. We help the customer with internal networking and by evaluating their data via a cloud solution. The circular economy needs transparency, and digitalisation is the basis for more transparency – not just for the circular economy, but also for sustainability in general: for example, it helps to work more efficiently through automation, to use less material or less energy.

Is the willingness there to act across company boundaries?

The common goal of sustainability has given the industry a development boost, and there are now more collaborations emerging than ever before. We have existing long-term partnerships, for example with raw material manufacturers, in which we are now also quickly tackling these issues together.

And we benefit from the fact that we have three processing steps in our own portfolio: extrusion, printing and processing. For example, we can directly test the effects of new, more sustainable formulations on printing. Sustainability is only possible together, along the value chain. This applies to digitalisation, efficiency and the circular economy.

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