The European Patent Office has honored Klaus Feichtinger and Manfred Hackl of Erema Group GmbH for their innovative technology for high-performance plastic recycling.
The European Inventor Award 2019, held June 20 in Vienna, recognized the duo's "efficient and high-quality plastic recycling technology," EPO said in a statement.
"Feichtinger and Hackl have developed new technology capable of efficiently sorting and separating plastics, meaning less waste and more new plastics available for production. Their recycling machines, which can be as big as buses, move, sort and filter plastic matter, delivering a high-quality pellet at the end that will be used to create new products," the statement said.
In particular, Ansfelden, Austria-based Erema's patented Counter Current technology was praised for allowing a wider variety of plastic waste to be recovered for industrial reuse with a quality that is "indistinguishable from virgin plastics."
In the Counter Current process, waste material enters an extruder and is rotated in the opposing direction to the flow of the extruder screw.
This allows for more waste material to be processed at faster rates than previously possible and at lower temperatures.
The technology, based on an idea first quickly sketched out by Feichtinger, is a crucial part of the inventors' recycling machines and is protected by several European patents.
The two — former co-CEO Feichtinger and current CEO Hackl — have run Erema together for over two decades.
Feichtinger stepped down from his position in April, but is still involved with the company as manager in the area of IP and new technologies.
The global plastic recycling market stood at 32 billion euros in 2017 and is projected to grow 6.5 percent per year to reach nearly 50 billion euros by 2024, according to EPO.
The growth is driven by increasing awareness of the environmental impact of plastics, as well as government regulations that encourage their re-use.
The EU's Plastics Strategy, launched in January 2018, requires that all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, aiming to drastically reduce the need for virgin plastics.
"These developments are driving beverage makers and other businesses to invest in efficient recycling technologies like Feichtinger and Hackl's," EPO added.