Technological watch

K 2019 plans a show of sustainability

  • “How can the plastics industry talk about sustainability without blushing?” Covestro CEO Markus Steilemann asked a roomful of journalists at the K 2019 Preview earlier this month in Düsseldorf, Germany. It was an unexpected comment at an event designed to build anticipation for one of the world’s largest trade shows for the plastics industry, and it certainly got everyone’s attention. Steilemann, of course, quickly shifted to more comfortable talking points, noting, in particular, that “plastics are still the future” and that from Covestro’s perspective, “sustainability is a source of innovation and business opportunities.”

    From whatever angle you want to broach the topic, sustainability has become an unavoidable part of the industry conversation. It was omnipresent at the press preview event, and is destined to be one of the buzz words at K 2019 in Düsseldorf from Oct. 16 to 24. You can expect to see ample coverage of how industry is responding to the sustainability challenge leading up to the show on the K 2019 channel on our website. In the meantime, here are four announcements that were made at the K 2019 Preview that merit attention.

  • BASF’s ChemCycling project kicked off at the end of 2018 with the goal of processing pyrolysis oil derived from plastic waste that currently cannot be recycled for use as a feedstock to create new products. At the K 2019 Preview, four partner companies presented the first prototypes that have come to fruition during the project’s pilot phase.

    Jaguar Land Rover developed a plastic front-end carrier prototype for its electric SUV I-Pace using BASF’s Ultramid B3WG6 Ccycled Black 00564.

    Storopack used Stryopor P Ccycled to make insulation packaging for temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals, boxes for transporting fresh fish and protective packaging for electronics.

    Südpack used the material to produce polyamide and polyethylene films that were processed into sealed food packaging.

    The fourth partner, Schneider Electric, manufactured a circuit breaker from chemically recycled Ultramid.

    There is tremendous promise in chemical recycling: A December 2018 study by McKinsey cited by BASF (Ludwigshafen, Germany) found that combining established recycling processes with new techniques such as chemical recycling would result in a 50% reuse and recycling rate for plastics worldwide by 2030. However, as BASF also noted at the K 2019 Preview, many challenges remain, including scaling production of high-quality pyrolysis oil into industrial quantities. Economic issues as well as regulatory matters—“regulators must also recognize the process officially as recycling,” noted BASF—also must be resolved if the technology is to live up to its promise.

    BASF will exhibit at stand C 21–D 21 in hall 5.

  • Covestro (Leverkusen, Germany) is a longtime supporter of initiatives by students at Germany’s RWTH Aachen University and FH Aachen to make mobility more sustainable. The latest chapter in that partnership is the development of an electric car powered by solar energy that will compete in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge 2019.

    Coming off a third place win in the European Solar Challenge 2018, the Sonnenwagen Team of students is aiming for the stars, er, sun, in this upcoming challenge, which is said to be the toughest solar car race in the world.

    Covestro is supporting the project with a variety of materials and technical services as well as through its sponsorship, said Julia Karmer, who heads the project within Covestro. The primary objective, she added, is to test new materials under extreme climatic conditions.

    The Sonnenwagen incorporates polyurethane and polycarbonate materials from Covestro and a three-layer polyurethane coating from automotive coatings supplier PPG. The top clear coat is formulated with bio-based hardener Desmodur eco N 7300 from Covestro, which comprises 70% carbon content sourced from biomass.

    The Covestro Sonnenwagen will make its first public appearance in Aachen, Germany, on July 22.

    Covestro will exhibit at K 2019 in booth A 75-1 to A 75-3 in hall 6.

  • When developing its products, extrusion technology company Reifenhäuser (Troisdorf, Germany) claims that recyclability is job one, to coin a phrase. For example, said the company, it aims to develop efficient processes that reduce the use of resources and materials, design machines that minimize waste and find innovative solutions for recycling plastic waste. At K 2019, it will present its new MDO polyethyelene film stretching system, a recyclable film with improved sealing properties that can sustainably replace PET, according to the company.

    Building on the success of its EVO Ultra Stretch line, the MDO system is already being successfully used to produce breathable back-sheet film for hygiene products, according to the company. "The positioning of the MDO in the haul-off unit is a key factor and is unique on the market to date,” explained Sales Director Eugen Fredel. “The advantage lies in the fact that the plastic can be stretched using initial heat on the four to six-fold extent. This enables us to achieve much higher process stability and lower shrink values due to the longer cooling path.”

    The film's simple heat-sealing property introduces newfound efficiency in subsequent finishing operations, said the company, because it can be processed on existing finishing equipment without modifications. "By adapting the EVO Ultra Stretch to mono-material laminates, Reifenhäuser Blown Film has succeeded in offering its customers an ecologically and economically sensible, high-performing alternative within packaging production,” said Fredel.

    The system will be on display at stand C 22 in hall 17.

  • Yes, there is unprecedented public hostility toward plastics, Ralf Dahl of KraussMaffei (Munich) told journalists attending the K 2019 Preview, but industry has the means and tools to show that it is addressing sustainability issues through up cycling and adoption of the principles of the circular economy. At K 2019, the maker of injection molding machines will illustrate this concept by converting a bucket into a premium quality automotive A-pillar panel with over-molded fabric.

    KraussMaffei’s GX 1100 press will mold polypropylene buckets, which will be subsequently shredded and fed back into the material circuit as regrind. A ZE 28 BluePower twin-screw extruder will produce a technically enhanced re-compound, with pigments and a 20% proportion of talc added to the polypropylene flakes. After underwater pelletizing and drying, the re-compound is fed to an all-electric PX 320 injection molding machine, where the material is formed into an A-pillar panel.

    Commenting on the process that will be on display at stand C 24 in hall 15, Dahl stressed at the K 2019 Preview that the “material’s second life is an upgrade, not just some new pellets.”

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Publication date: 17/07/2019

Plastics Today


This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.