Plastikwerke Nordwalde is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. It was from this company that REMONDIS’ subsidiary, RE Plano, later emerged – its name being made up of the first few letters of the company’s three names. The factory had originally been set up to mass produce plastic. Its business soon changed direction, however, when it became the REMONDIS Group’s first plastics recycling facility.
After Norbert Rethmann had begun developing his own ideas and technology in the German town of Selm to recycle plastic, he then purchased Plano in 1982 and turned it into the first plastics recycling facility. This site was to become the centre of plastics recycling. Different types of processing technology, such as magnet and eddy current separators, were developed and improved here together with the help of engineers. More and more companies began to take an interest in what was happening in Nordwalde and tried to get a foothold on the market as well. Even back then, Plano spent much time looking at how the business could be further developed: DM 2 million were invested in a second treatment line, which included shredding, washing and separator technology, as well as in a new extruder.
The then environment minister, Klaus Matthiesen, attended the official opening. Plano was proud to have created a market for recycled plastic granules and of its position as the pioneer of plastics recycling. And yet, to begin with, German red tape made it impossible for the business to be a success. Plastic products, such as pipes, pallets and bins, are all subject to DIN standards – and back then these standards did not allow the use of recycled plastic. Tests on the product ruled that the recycled plastic was too rough and not of a sufficiently consistent quality. Norbert Rethmann found these findings absurd as he was utterly convinced of the quality of his company’s recycled plastic granules. And so he made another attempt when he purchased the Lippe Plant in Lünen and looked for niches in the market. A second plant was commissioned in Lünen in 1996 which focused exclusively on recycling plastic packaging film. Initially, this idea proved to be a success but then a new problem emerged as the market became increasingly globalised: with the introduction of dumping prices, huge volumes of this plastic were suddenly being shipped to China. The resulting lack of input material meant the recycling facilities were making a loss and both were closed down in 2005.
“The demand for high quality recycled raw materials has grown and there is a huge potential here.”
Ralf Mandelatz, Managing Director at RE Plano
Growing consumption and a new sales concept brought Plano’s business back to the fore. The facility in Lünen was converted and recommissioned; the plant in Nordwalde remained closed and was later sold. Managing director, Ralf Mandelatz, commented: “Fortunately, we can leave the past where it belongs – in the past. The demand for high quality recycled raw materials has grown and there is a huge potential here. New fields of application are being found for recycled raw materials. This gives us the security we need to invest in our business and further strengthen our position as the market leader.” A number of different plastics are recycled at the Lippe Plant now, including polythene (HDPE), polypropylene (PP) and polyamide (PA). Further material streams are to be added to this list next year. In 2018, the facility will begin processing polystyrene (PS) and ABS that has been sorted by Electrorecycling to transform these two streams into high quality recycled plastic granules and compounds.