If sustainability is to become immersed in the plastics industry, companies need to wake up and work together to find product solutions, the head of extrusion blow molding machine producer Kautex Maschinenbau said at K 2022.
"When do we start to learn faster and lead change," said Thomas Hartkämper, CEO and chief sustainability officer of Bonn, Germany-based Kautex, during a news briefing at the trade show. "Plastics is one of the most sustainable materials on planet Earth, and there's no lack of it. But we need to take action now."
An abundance of blow molding equipment companies at K 2022 discussed how their machines are energy-efficient or use post-consumer resin effectively. While energy efficiency is important, the industry will soon reach peak efficiency and not be able to reduce energy much more, said Paulo Gomes, Kautex chief technology officer.
And while showcasing machine capabilities to produce post-consumer resin is also important, putting that into action with new products on the market is more critical, Hartkämper said. "You must walk the walk and not just talk the talk," he said. "It's not just a matter of being able to use recycled material."
Kautex is focusing its attention on upcycling, or reprocessing material from products already on the market and using it for new applications. Hartkämper said that circular approach and putting a focus on customers' products is the more sustainable path forward.
For its part, Kautex is increasing its focus on sustainable product innovation. Scattered around its K 2022 booth were watering cans made of polypropylene. The cans were processed from fishing nets recovered from ocean waters and were provided by resin producer Braskem. Other solutions at the booth included a kayak hanging from the ceiling that uses as much as 70 percent recycled content and an intermediate bulk container and hydrogen storage unit with layers of recycled resin.
Tellingly, the company was showcasing no equipment, only products, at its booth. That was part of Hartkämper's vision that he spelled out at the show: to create leading change and added value for customers.