Closed-loop recycling at rPlanet Earth

Bob Daviduk and Joe Ross envision a world without plastic waste. An ambitious goal, but facing the high plastic consumption in the USA, their home country, it’s understandable: There’s coffee in to-go cups, disposable cutlery, and even peeled hard-boiled eggs in plastic containers. But when it comes to recycling these products, things look pretty grim: “When it comes to sustainability, the US is an emerging market. We recycle one in five bottles give or take. In Europe it’s closer to five out of ten. In Germany it’s over 90 per cent because of the deposit,” says Daviduk. In the US only one-fifth of the states have adopted a deposit and redemption system for PET and glass bottles and cans. But where there is a system in place, it works, as these statistics show: While the collection rate averages only about 30 percent nationally, the ten states with bottle deposits have raised their collection rates to an average of over 70 percent and as high as 92 percent.

So, there’s still enormous potential for deposit-refund systems to more than double or even triple the average collection rate. What is primarily in place right now, though, is curbside recycling, which is available for most plastics, paper, and aluminum. All of these materials land in a big collection bin, get pre-sorted, and then sold for further processing.

And that is where rPlanet Earth comes in: The company uses primarily post-consumer plastic waste from curbside recycling programs, recycles the containers and converts the flakes into food-grade preforms, extruded sheet, and thermoformed packaging in a single, closed-loop process.

When choosing the equipment for their recycling startup company, Bob and Joe counted on Krones: “Six years ago Krones wasn’t really known in the PET recycling field. But my business partner Joe and his brother were both in the packaging industry and, of course, knew Krones. So I called – and was immediately put in touch with the right people; first in Neutraubling, then here in their Franklin, Wisconsin, office.” Joe Ross adds: “What started as doing some research turned into some really tight relationships with everybody from the recycling experts in Germany to the local people in the US and even the directors. We’ve gotten to know the Krones family very well and we consider them friends.”

And the result is impressive: