As the biggest plastics event took place in Germany, the question of where we stand in terms of sustainability has grown in importance. Where to begin? Maillefer looked at different functions within its organization and surprisingly realized that certain progress has been made. To move forward, however, will require us to precede towards international standards.
What about exhibiting at resource hungry events like K? Our stand builder reports, “I prefer to separate sustainability and the circular economy,” begins Tobias Tommila of Tomexpo. “For example, the new lighting we provide is more energy efficient, thus more sustainable to use than tradition bulbs yet more difficult to recycle. The largest part of our incorporated stand material is recyclable. We employ a lot of wood and steel as construction material. Weight-wise we estimate our stands to be recyclable at 92-97%.” Fortunately, contractors like Tomexpo can call on support from the show organizer to realize such goals.
Back here at home, Maillefer addresses operational wastes. Philippe Moeschler, VP Pipe & Tube Business Line, considers “All plastics going through our extruders during tests are sorted for possible reuse. Other wastes like wood, paper, glass and metals are separated to facilitate recycling. Together with our landlord, we have put in place a five-year plan to realize energy and heating savings at our facilities. This year we redid the roof. Our building’s insulation is next. Plus, the contract for our electricity is now under negotiation and includes considerations about its origin and the ratio of renewable energy.”
“Our production processes put in place over the past decade are optimized. We fabricate our extrusion lines to order, which means no idle stock that risks getting scrapped,” continues Mr. Moeschler. “Wood farmed locally is used for packing. Components come principally from Europe and we privilege suppliers nearby, thus limiting long-distance transport. Transactions are predominantly communicated electronically. Post mail is reduced. For example, our Perspectives magazine is distributed electronically thereby reducing by 2/3 the number of paper copies posted. Internal processes are digitalized to minimize paper and improve content accuracy.”
Mr. Moeschler emphasizes, “Employee health and mobility are encouraged. Our employees appreciate our proximity to public transportation. Video conferencing and remote support via Internet help limit travel to far-off destinations. Visits are combined whenever possible.”
Customer demands have evolved too. Multi-layer extrusion allows manufacturers to employ different grades of polymers that respond to concerns for recycling or environmental durability. Take for example, multi-layer drip irrigation pipes where the middle layer is extruded with recycled material. Virgin compounds are reserved for the thin outer and innermost layers.
Quality control systems with predictive intelligence work within ever tighter tolerances to reduce raw material consumption and waste. Filtration and closed circuit cooling require less volumes of water and limit pollution of the precious resource. Automation and devices conveniently help reduce the need for compressed air. Maillefer delivers equipment that is durable and that is supported through service, upgrades and value packages to extend equipment lifetime.
Indeed, the road to sustainability is long and covers some challenging terrain. “It is encouraging that we have realized a series of modest steps,” concludes Mr. Moeschler. “As the young generation reminds us, sustainability is here and now, for every single one of us.” At Maillefer, we aim to meet their expectations.Philippe Moeschler
Vice President Pipe & Tube Business Line