By: Jim Johnson
October 24, 2013
DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY — All sorts of plastics machinery churn out all sorts of products minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day at K 2013.
It's what they do.
Injection molding machines, in-mold labeling systems, blow molding machines and all of their cousins brought to Düsseldorf at great cost to grab the attention of potential customers. And they're not going to just sit idly by.
But for every newly created bottle, food container, syringe or cap that gets picked up by passersby, hundreds or even thousands of others collect in bins as machines keep cranking out their products.
For the folks at what's being called the IML Competence Collaboration display (Hall 10/G77), thousands of polypropylene food containers are being produced each day at the show. The bright and splashy label colors and the sound and movement of the Beck Automation's equipment attract plenty of attention from show goers, many of whom take a sample.
But workers at the booth, including Beck Automation salesman Daniel Merki, are continually managing the excess containers that come off the system.
"They take it in containers and they do the recycling," Merki said. And that's that, as far as he's concerned, because there are machines to sell and people to see.
The early afternoon air was crisp behind Hall 16 at the Messe Düsseldorf, and Antje Gossling stood near a row of large gray waste containers. Periodically, throughout the show, a forklift arrives with a bin of now-unwanted plastic from one of the halls.
At this particular moment, early this week, it was another delivery of white high density polyethylene caps.
"I don't know, I think we have 1,000 cubic meters," Gossling said about overall plastics collection efforts as of early Sunday afternoon. But with every machine cycle, that number will continue to increase before everyone packs it up and packs it in on Wednesday.
Volume, not tonnage, is the challenge for recycling at the show, as the plastics are light in weight by comparison to recyclables handled at other shows at the Messe Düsseldorf, said Gossling, who oversees recycling for local waste-management company Remondis Rhein-Wupper GmbH & Co. KG. "It's not very heavy," she said, estimating a typical load may weigh only 500 kilograms. "We have a lot of air."
She figured 14 or 15 of the large containers are trucked off the show grounds each day.
Away from the beer and the brats and the booths, workers are stationed at different collection points around the grounds as plastics are removed from the show floors to start their recycling journey.
"We have five stations with a lot of containers. There is somebody trying to separate the plastic types," Gossling said.
Work takes place behind halls 5, 8, 11, 14 and 17 in an effort to clean up the different recycling streams and keep as much material as possible out of the mixed plastics bin. That's because loads of a single material can be easily recycled, but mixed plastics end up going to a waste-to-energy plant.
One stand that doesn't have to worry about recycling its production is Italtech SpA, where the company's large blue or white plastic bowls have proven to be quite popular this year.
With the company's injection molding machine operating quite close, managing director Massimo Pegoraro sat and talked about the idea behind creating the bowls.
"Just to attract the people," he said. "Just to show the machine."
And the idea worked. Really well. Just ask Marta Pozzoli, who is helping out at the booth this year.
"It was crazy," she remembered of one scene over the weekend with show attendees lined up all around the company's location (Hall 10/E74). The huge number of people waiting for bowls was such that Pozzoli said it was difficult to actually stop and look at the machine.
"They just stayed there, like for an hour. If you come to a fair, what I do not understand [is] standing in line for an hour. I know it's free," she said. "It was surprise."
Later in the day Sunday, the company had obviously learned a valuable lesson. While a line of dozens of bowl hunters had again formed, they were now stretching down the hallway instead of in front of the booth.