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Why is recycling so important?

Recycling saves what many would call waste. At the end of a product's life cycle, its recyclable materials are separated from other elements and processed so that they can find their way into new products or packaging. If we manage to reuse recyclable materials as well and as often as possible, we can reduce the need for primary raw materials and create a more sustainable, environmentally friendly future.

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Recycling rates and statistics

This sounds quite simple at first – yet global recycling statistics reveal dismal recycling rates, and the use of recycled materials is still relatively low. Why is this and how can we increase recycling rates?

When it comes to the low use of recyclates, one reason is certainly the relatively low acquisition costs for primary raw materials. The costs of returning and recycling recyclable materials, on the other hand, are comparatively higher, and recyclates often have a hard time competing with the price of primary raw materials.

In addition, many recyclable materials do not find their way into the take-back systems in the first place, whether due to a lack of infrastructure or incentives, or simply because there is uncertainty regarding correct separation, which often prevents both end consumers and companies from improving their recycling practices. Politicians around the world are trying to counteract this with recycling and recyclate quotas, but there is still a long way to go. 

To increase recycling, we must remember that the environmentally friendly use of our finite resources is everyone's responsibility. 

Recycling with PreZero:
Processes and services

While technical processes differ greatly depending on the material, the general principles of recycling remain the same. Put simply, waste must first be effectively separated so that each material can be sent to the correct recycling facility.

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Next, the waste must be processed by removing organic residues or impurities. Finally, the waste is given a second life as new and customized recyclates, which return to the material cycle as seamlessly as possible, depending on the requirements for the new use.

PreZero’s recycling approach is a holistic one, meaning we are active in the entire lifecycle of waste and strive to improve recycling at every step. To this end, we have a unique portfolio of services, including recycling and waste management consulting, as well as improving the recyclability of packaging and offering packaging licensing, broad-based options for collecting different material flows, and advanced sorting systems to innovative recycling technologies.

In addition, we promote our partnerships and provide secondary raw materials for the creation of new recycling products, which are then available from local retailers, such as Lidl or Kaufland in Europe.

Sortieranlage Fliessband Kunststoffe

Plastic recycling

Plastic is a versatile material used widely in our society, and it’s impossible to imagine the private and commercial sectors without it. This makes it all the more important to recycle plastics effectively. However, a look at the current global statistics on plastic recycling paints a dark picture in terms of sustainability. According to an OECD report, less than a tenth of plastic waste is recycled worldwide. At the same time, we produce twice as much plastic as we did at the turn of the millennium. As the manufacture of plastic products and packaging is heavily dependent on increasingly scarce fossil resources, it is essential to drastically increase recycling and recyclate usage rates to meet growing global demand.

By producing customized recyclates that meet the high requirements of our customers, we can successfully promote the use of recyclable materials from dual systems and industrial plastic disposal. Recycling at PreZero includes the production of recyclates and films, which are already used in a wide range of areas – from the construction industry, household furniture and automotive parts to packaging made from recycled materials. One example of this is the use of plastic granulates from PreZero Polymers in COMPO's liquid fertilizer bottles, for which the two companies jointly won the "Plastic Packaging Product" category at the Plastic Recycling Awards Europe in 2023.

The other companies in the Schwarz Group, to which PreZero belongs, have also recognized the benefits of plastic recycling. European retail companies Lidl and Kaufland have therefore set themselves the ambitious goal of using an average of 25% recyclate in the plastic packaging of their own brands by 2025 and making all of this packaging as recyclable as possible.

PreZero's recycling plants process over 95,000 tons of material per year for use as recycled raw material. 

pyral aluminium recycling fliessband

Aluminum recycling

As one of the most recycled materials in the world, aluminum has positively high recycling rates, with around three quarters of all aluminum ever produced still in circulation today. This is because aluminum is almost 100% recyclable, meaning recycling rates for aluminum cans and other aluminum products are so high that they can be easily processed and returned to the material cycle with minimal loss of quality.

PreZero Pyral takes aluminum recycling to a new level with its groundbreaking pyrolysis process. This enables the reuse of aluminum from the dual system and industry. Organic impurities, plastic residues, and colors are separated and used on site to generate electricity. In this way, all materials find their way into the best possible recycling process.

According to forecasts, aluminum consumption in the EU alone is expected to increase by 40% by 2050 due to the growing transport, packaging and electrical sectors[JE1] . If we continue to rely on the primary raw material as a source, it would increase the negative consequences of aluminum production. By contrast, recycling one metric ton of aluminum can save up to 12,725 KW of electricity compared to primary production. This corresponds to a reduction in CO2 emissions of 19.3 tons. In addition, 1.8 fewer tons of chemical substances are required for processing. And another piece of good news: customer-specific requirements in terms of shape, size or alloy are also met with recycled aluminum.

Anlage Glas

Glass recycling

The global recycling rate for glass is currently estimated at around 20%. A more positive figure comes from Germany, where the use of 60-90% recycled glass in new bottles is standard. Glass is an infinitely recyclable material, and the environmental impact of recycled glass is considerably lower than that of raw material production. PreZero is currently one of the market leaders for glass recycling in Germany and Poland with a processing capacity of around 400,000 tons. As a recycling technology consultant and glass recycling expert, PreZero uses a range of modern processes to turn collected glass waste into unmixed secondary raw materials for reuse in the glass industry.


Paper and cardboard recycling

More than 400 million tons of paper and cardboard are produced annually, with a global recycling rate of well over 50%. As a recycling consultancy, PreZero supports companies to drastically increase the recycling rates for paper and cardboard and at the same time exceed the current requirements of the dual system. Good waste and recyclables management also helps save costs and makes the collection, sorting, processing and distribution of different types of paper waste much easier. Better recycling benefits both the economy and the environment.

Recycling of other recycable materials

As part of our strong commitment to the circular economy in different production loops, PreZero offers comprehensive recycling solutions for a wide range of recyclables, including wood, organic waste and mixed commercial and household waste. We also address other recycling streams and work intensively on solutions and innovations for a wide range of industries and applications, such as solar energy, battery, or building and construction waste recycling.

One pioneering example is the recycling of wind turbines with rotor blades made of glass fiber reinforced plastic (GRP) in collaboration between PreZero and Endesa in northern Spain.  

In recent years, PreZero has also invested heavily in sorting systems for lightweight packaging (LVP). This generally includes common types of packaging such as plastic, aluminum and tin, Styrofoam and composite packaging, to name a few. The latest innovations in waste sorting technology enable us to sort this waste according to quality levels and other criteria up to a capacity of almost one million tons. This not only optimizes the sorting process, but also enables mechanical and chemical recycling.

Stapler Werstoffhof Kunststoff Ballen

Increasing recycling rates with PreZero

PreZero does recycling right. As one of the European market leaders in the recycling and reuse of used materials, we are constantly working to further improve recycling standards and close production cycles with increasing effectiveness.

Keeping raw materials in the cycle not only benefits the environment, but it also reduces the pressure on dwindling resources and cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions. The economy therefore also benefits from efficient recycling measures.

With our international infrastructure of pioneering sorting and recycling facilities, technologically advanced vehicle fleets and expert employees, we have valuable knowledge in dealing with household and industrial/commercial waste at every stage of the waste management cycle.

We support our customers in obtaining all relevant country-specific documents required by local and national regulations.

Depending on the requirements of the respective country, we prepare all legally required waste disposal certificates, provided either in paper form or as a digitalized document. We are also working on the creation of an automated CO2 emissions balance sheet and expect to be able to offer this to our customers soon.