Starlinger recycling technology is a division of Starlinger & Co GmbH, world market leader in the field of machinery and complete lines for woven plastic packaging production. For 30 years, it has been providing machinery solutions for the recycling and refining of a wide scope of plastics. Starlinger & Co talks about saving costs through in-house recycling, thereby improving efficiency in the operational cycle and contributing eventually to sustainability.

During the highly complex process of nonwoven fabric production waste occurs along the entire production chain-from start-up waste and off-spec material all the way to conversion scrap. Converting it in-house into a secondary resource helps nonwoven producers to cut down production costs by reducing their waste and raw material expenses.

Turning production scrap into a valuable secondary resource

Nonwovens consist of different polymers and polymer mixtures, have different viscosities, and type and amount of contaminations and required filtration fineness vary a lot. Due to the fact that nonwoven production waste comes in different shapes it is necessary to recycle it into pellets to make it suitable for reuse. For this, high quality is decisive: a production stop caused by less than perfect regranulate is costly and jeopardises the economic benefits of processing and reusing the production scrap.

The lack of quality control in case of tolling recycling very often prevents nonwoven producers from using recycled material. In-house recycling, on the other hand, helps a nonwoven manufacturer to control the quality of the regranulate through one's own materials management. To ensure the production of high quality regranulate-which is a prerequisite for improving cost efficiency and the stability of the production process-an analysis of the input material and the right choice of equipment is paramount.

Successful examples of in-house recycling

Waste reduction, cost saving, sustainability: already more than ten years ago, these were three major reasons why nonwovens producers decided to recycle their production scrap. In 2003 and 2004, Starlinger recycling technology installed two of their first recycling lines for nonwoven production scrap at the nonwovens producers Don & Low, a member of Thrace Group in Great Britain, and Softbond in Argentina. In 2014, Global Nonwovens, India, made a Starlinger recycling line part of the equipment in the new nonwovens production plant that has been set up in the Mumbai region.

"We aimed to recover the cost of polypropylene by re-consuming the scrap in-house or selling the recovered waste in pellet form to consumers in the industry," said Keith Galloway, general manager at Don & Low Ltd Nonwovens. "Second, by recycling we can reduce or even eliminate the amount of polypropylene waste that goes to landfill." he added. Alessio Romanelli from the general management of Softbond confirmed this.

"Our target was to add value to the scrap from our main production lines. We use about half of the recycled polypropylene again in our mainproduction process and the rest we sell to local injection moulding companies," he said. Both companies were able to meet the strategic targets by achieving cost saving for the company and its customers, and meeting the set environmental goals. According to Don & Low, the latter have become increasingly important: some of their customers specifically ask for recycled content in their product, a requirement Don & Low can meet without problems.